Tornonto, Ontario; Annick Press, 2013.

Do you have any reluctant readers who are nonetheless visual learners?  Show them this version of medieval history and they just might be hooked on the format.  Shapiro and Kinnaird use a series of charts, graphs, illustrations, infographics and corny jokes to usher the reader through the middle ages.  With sections on topics like women in the middle ages (women had careers, even then!); social classes (“the life of a young peasant is the same as the life of an old peasant, only poorer”); the Crusades (there were nine, plus a teen effort that fizzled out in Italy); the Black Plague; and religion, it could be used as a fun and easy introduction to a history unit.

Some often otherwise dry historical information is  presented on double page spreads in a visually appealling format that is easily absorbed and then analyzed to compare it with other texts.  For example, it is easy to see that in the middle ages, as now, having enough money can make life a little easier.

While this is a fun introduction, it is just that.  It is a jumping off point to learn more about medieval history.  This book is perfect for selecting companion books in, say, historical fiction or biography to draw students further into the subject.  It would be a good addition to an elementary or middle school library to market to those students who say they don’t like to read.

CCSS:  Reading Standards for Informational Text:   Grade 4 Standards 4, 5, 7; Grade 5 Standards 1, 3, 5, 9;ELA Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies:  Grades 6-8 Standards 2, 3, 4, 5, 7;  Grades 9- 0 Standards 3, 4, 5, 9.

Dewey:  909.07      Interest:  Grades 5-8      Awards:  Kirkus Review

Older readers might like:  Guns, Germs, and Steel:  the Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond.

Younger readers might like:  First Facts:  The Middle Ages series from Capstone Press by various authors.

Fiction pairing: The Midwife’s Apprentice or Catherine Called Birdy, both by Karen Cushman.