CM . . . .
Volume V Number 12 . . . . February 12, 1999
In 325 BC Alexander's armies began their long journey home. Some of his troops returned to Susa, the Persian capital, by sea. Alexander led the rest back overland. It was a terrible mistake. Their march became an ordeal of thirst and scorching heat. To add to their torment, a sudden cloudburst turned into a flood, and many were drowned. Sandstorms blinded them, and they lost their way. Starving soldiers slaughtered their pack animals and ate the meat raw. Alexander led 85,000 people into the desert, but only 25,000 survived.A winning combination of interesting facts, text that is easy to understand and fabulous panoramic illustrations makes history come alive in this fascinating book. Stories of past civilizations, daring adventurers and fierce battles are told in 13 chapters, each one covering two over-sized pages. The building of the Great Pyramid in ancient Egypt, the fall of the Roman Empire, the Crusades and the French and Russian Revolutions are just a few of the topics discussed.
The author's style is such that readers are drawn into the action described in the text. Tidbits of little-known facts as well as glimpses into the personalities of the main characters of the various events, serve to sustain readers' interests. Brief headings, acting as an outline for each chapter, and simple text, written in kid-friendly language, help to increase readers' understanding. (It is interesting to note that most chapters focus on wars of one type or another, yet there is little or no mention of inventions which have had a positive impact on the world.) A table of contents and an index are provided.
Perhaps the most creative section of the book is its introduction. In it, Platt compares each of the past events to parts of a book - its spine bearing the coins on which Alexander the Great's portrait is imprinted, its pages preserved by ancient Egypt's dry climate. This "book" analogy gives readers the "big picture" that reveals how the past has shaped the future.
Wonderful illustrations, rendered in muted colours and perfectly suited to the text, enhance the telling of the historical events and clarify understanding. The clothing, weapons, homes and modes of transportation of each era have been drawn in minute detail and are authentically depicted.
This journey into the past will keep readers enthralled, page after page. Definitely not another ho-hum history book.
Gail Hamilton is the teacher-librarian at Bird's Hill School, East St. Paul, Manitoba.
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