Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Great Stories

The family headed off to the library last night, to look for (among other things) a book of stories from history to read aloud to the eldest girl. Last time around, we checked out the Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia of World History, and she enjoyed the pictures but wanted to know "more stories" about things. The Usborne book, while full of engaging pictures, is definitely light on story, as it tends to cover 100-300 year periods with a single double-page spread.

Well, a search of the public library stacks didn't turn anything useful up. There were a lot of books about "ordinary who who lived in X times" and lots of individual biographies and special interest biography collections: "Twelve Famous Chinese-Dutch Women in Icelandic History" and "Empowering Stories from History for Girls", etc. However, they didn't seem to have any kind of "A Child's Big Book of Tales From History".

So two questions:

1) Since it looks like we may have to Amazon or Alibris this one, does anyone have a suggestions for such a book for reading aloud to kindergarten age children?

2) Thoughts on what the 'great stories' are that children should be introduced to at a fairly young age? I'm thinking there are probably a mix of historical events, myths and crossover historical myths, as well as (of course) a lot of stuff from the Bible that all belong in such a collection. Some off-the-cuff ideas:

Basic story or ideas about: cave people; invention of fire; invention of agriculture; stone henge

Stories from Ancient Egypt: something about the pyramids; the story of King Tut; story of Iris and Osiris

Stories from Ancient Mesopotamia: Sumerian/Babylonian version of Flood Story

Stories from the Old Testament: Noah (as contrast with pagan version); Abraham & Isaac; Exodus; Saul; David; Solomon; Sampson; Ruth; Maccabees

Stories from Ancient Greece: Prometheus; Pandora; Trojan War; wanderings of Odysseus; Jason and the Argonauts; Battle of Marathon; Battle of Thermopylae; The Peloponessian War; a little about Plato and Aristotle; a little about Greek drama; conquests of Alexander the Great; the Gordian Knot

Stories from Ancient Rome: Aeneas; Romulus and Remus; Cincinnatus; the Brothers Gracchus; Hannibal; Julius Caesar (must include pirate story -- kidnapped by pirates is good); Augustus; Nero; Boadicea

Stories from the New Testament: birth of Christ; major parables and miracles; crucifixion and resurrection; St. Paul; St. Stephen; other early martyrs

More Rome: the 'barbarian' tribes; Roman Britain; Constantine; Helena; St. Augustine; St. Benedict; fall of Rome; Attila the Hun and Pope Leo;

'Dark Ages' through Medieval: King Arthur; Beowulf; Clovis; Byzantium; Mohammad & Islam; Charlemagne (must include his learning to read, his elephant); Celtic monasteries; vikings (raids, exploration, myths, conversion); Normal conquest; crusades; St. Thomas Becket; Eleanor of Aquitaine; King Richard/King John; St. Francis (should include wolf of Gubbio) St. Dominic; St. Thomas Aquinas; St. Joan of Ark; medieval mystery plays;

You get the idea...

I'm thinking of compiling a list -- in order to make sure we get through it all via other books, even if such a thing can't all be found in one place.

Feel free to toss in ideas.


CMinor said...

Greenleaf Press had several "Famous Men of..." books, although they might be a bit dry for a five-year-old. (And no pictures either. Darn.)

Tomie de Paola published books on the Guadelupe story and St. Francis; there are some other St. Francis books out there as well. I think I've seen one on the wolf of Gubbio.

Rick Lugari said...

I can't say for 100% sure, but I think that entire list has been address in various Bugs Bunny cartoons. You should be checking Netflix rather than the library.


love2learnmom said...

My oldest really enjoyed D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths at that age. The Story of the Greeks and the Story of the Romans (both by H.A. Guerber) are quite good, though you might want to be a little selective for younger children. The Vision series of Saint stories from Ignatius press has also been popular as read-alouds at a younger age than I would have guessed.

Jennifer @ Conversion Diary said...

A lot of people have recommended A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich to me for when my kids are a little older, though I haven't read it myself.

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

The absolute best "story" History book for kids is Hyllier's "A Child's History of the World"-- look for at it at Calvert School. You should know all about it... It's really outstanding. They do it in their 3rd grade curriculum, but after years and years with this book we have found that Kindergarteners love to listen to it being read aloud, and that we can do this book again and again: I have had 8th graders reading it just for fun!
Let me know if you love it too!

Darwin said...

I'll have to look up Gombrich's book. I recall liking his history of art.

Thanks for the tip, Ana. (Actually, I'm moderately ignorant of Calvert's early grades since I didn't start using it till 6th grade, and I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to what the younger sybs were doing.) I do recall their 6th grade history through aprox 1500 book was pretty good.

Love2Learn, the D'Aulaire book is definately a favorite.

Dorian Speed said...

We have the D'Aulaire book, too, and my son adores it.

Aren't you using the children's Bible illustrated by Tomie dePaola? I thought I read about it here? All I know is, Noah was a Righteous Man. We've got that one down.

DMinor said...

Glad somebody mentioned the DePaola Bible Stories, and D'Aulaire's Greek Myths. The D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths (which was originally titled Norse Gods and Giants)is now back in print as well, to my great rejoicing!

I have seen a children's version of the Gilgamesh story (I think the author's name was Zeman)with really gorgeous illustrations.

Dover Press has inexpensive editions of folktale collections from different parts of the world.


Literacy-chic said...

Before you check Amazon, etc., peruse one or more 1/2 Price Books locations! They should have some of what you're looking for!

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

I have this odd, deja-vu-ish feeling of having answered this question before... Anyway:

Some things we've used and which have been popular with the 4-6 age group:

History Stories of Other Lands: Tales From Far and Near (Arthur Guy Terry)
History Stories of Other Lands: Tales of Long Ago (Arthur Guy Terry)
Fun read-alouds, and easy beginning reading for about second grade.
(this is 2 vols. if you find old copies; Calvert uses it in a single softcover volume)

Mighty Men (Eleanor Farjeon)
Little stories from history, with accompanying poems.
(originally 2 vols.; now usually found in a single volume)

A Child's History of the World (Hillyer) is used by Calvert also, and the chapters can make entertaining out-loud reading for younger people, if you don't expect them to remember any of the particulars. Do be sure to get a more recent edition if you're interested in this; the older editions have some painfully un-PC moments.

A little old for Kindergarten, but worth investing in for the future, if you can find it: Olive Beaupre Miller's Picturesque Tale of Progress. See
The 4-vol. edition is cheaper used, and you won't gasp when you see your child heading up into a tree to read it--the 8-vol. (9-vol. if it has the index) edition is almost too good to let children touch. I saw a 9-vol. ed. at the Half Price up on 183 a couple months ago, and the 4-vol. ed. shows up occasionally. is your friend.

Finally, the local classical hs'ing group (an e-mail of which I recently forwarded) has a wiki going of history resources, including lots of historical fiction, with age indications. I'll send that URL in a private e-mail; it has lots of stuff you might find useful, such as the Zeman Gilgamesh trilogy mentioned above.

Darwin said...


Indeed. Sorry about the repetition.

It was the books you'd mentioned for I'd been searching for at the library on and on Amazon, but since most of them seem to be only available through Calvert (and thus expensive) I was going to fish a bit more before jumping in. :-)

That wiki sounds really interesting.

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Go to . Enter "farjeon" and "mighty men"--Click on "Mighty Men" (the other options are the individual volumes)--Behold multiple copies for under $5 (shipping is included in the price shown). This is where I do lots of my book shopping.

It's definitely harder to find a cheap copy of Hillyer, since it's used by so many homeschoolers; sometimes they show up at HP. You can borrow my copy for a while if you like, and see what you think. But the Arthur Guy Terry books are reasonably priced there.

Check out Farjeon's Kings and Queens, too, which used to be OOP and very expensive to get hold of (I finally landed a damaged copy for still too much money), but is now in print again, hurrah! Not stories but catchy, page-long poems about the English monarchs and their deeds.

Bluff King Hal was full of beans
He married half a dozen queens
For three named Kate they cried the banns
And one called Jane, and a couple of Annes. (etc.)

love2learnmom said...

Also, are you familiar with the Baldwin Project ? Lots of great stuff there.

Literacy-chic said...

I remember a series that had titles like Stories for Nine-Year-Olds that has some good hero-tales, mainly Irish, I believe. That particular one stands out because it has the story of Fin Mac Cool (variation on the Gaelic spelling). Those might prove promising. . . I haven't thought of them in years!

LogEyed Roman said...

Great Stories for kids

I read and adored the D’Aulaire book on Greek myths when I was little. While I have no credibility as a parent or teacher, my street cred as a former kid is substantial in this field. I was gonzo about mythology, especially Greek. (Norse, Roman and a smattering of others too.) I depleted the resources of my elementary school library to the point where the librarian went into a back room and brought me an unabridged, totally adult, phone-book-sized Bullfinch’s Mythology, which I proceeded to devour down to the last word. (I was eight years old. That one book probably boosted my reading vocabulary by a couple of school grades.)

Regarding Bible stories, I don’t currently have any specific book titles. However when a mother in a catechism class I was teaching asked for help with hear kids I checked out some resources at the local Pauline Books & Media store. (The one in your native heath, Darwin; I’m sure you remember.) They had several absolutely smashing kid’s bibles, for several ages, all with an excellent mix of pictures, and just the right mix of storytelling and solid lessons. Also the Imprimauter and/or Nihil Obstat, which as fellow Roman you’ll appreciate.