Skip to main content

Ancient Mesopotamia: a lesson in… living books

image_thumb[1]I grabbed a handful of Ancient Mesopotamia books at the library the other day to go along with where we are in Story of the World (Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians).  Most were of the predictable Dorling-Kindersley variety, namely tons of pictures and drawings.  These are okay at this age because the kids can flip through them and not necessarily need the text to guide them through the images.

newbook 006But they are also full of fluff.  The pictures are fluff, and don’t even necessarily reflect the time period.  What does a picture of a cracked and crumbling clay bowl tell you about how a society lived?  Sometimes, not as much as a simple line drawing. 

Which is why I’m so impressed with another book I picked up in the same section:  They Lived Like this in Ancient Mesopotamia, by Marie Neurath (illustrated by Evelyn Worboys).

As it was published in 1964 and seems to be based on a filmstrip (remember those?) I was actually NOT looking forward to reading this book.  I thought it would be dull and outdated (huh?  yeah, I know most of what we know about ancient civilizations hasn’t changed in the last fifty years). 

Anyway, I was wrong; it’s been a pleasant surprise.

“They Lived Like This” is a living book at its finest, and as an older book, it could also teach kids that they don't need all the flashy graphics to appreciate a civilization and its history in detail.

newbook 009The book features simple line illustrations with spots of colour using an “isotype” process that was new at the time. The areas of colour are selected to draw attention to specific details.  The drawings themselves are based on ancient carvings and the author explains a bit about the artistic style of the time (like why they’ve made a tower exactly the same height as its builders so they could all fit in the scene).

newbook 008Based on these historical graphics, the book actually demonstrates how real historians actually learn the details of a society's day-to-day life from its carvings and other art. The text is simple, clear and never overwhelming - but also not dumbed-down like some kids' books today.  Sentences are rich and varied:  “But the land was dry.  As they grew wiser they learned to dig canals, to water the land with river water, to use the plough, and to keep sheep and cattle.”

newbook 007In 32 well-laid-out, well-written pages, with lots of white space and pauses for reflection, the book covers everything from farming, ancient gods and the ziggurats, the invention of the wheel and styles of warfare.

This book would be suitable for a confident young reader or as a read-aloud for Grade 1 and up.

newbook 010This book is a perfect complement to all those flashy “eyewitness” books that come with internet links, CD’s, all the bells and whistles… that, as I’ve seen, ultimately don't contain more information than this “old-fashioned” book.

Which I guess just proves what Charlotte Mason educators have been saying all along:  sometimes, the "fluff" is merely a gorgeous distraction.  And sometimes, the most gorgeous history books are basically well-illustrated twaddle.


Popular posts from this blog

לימודי קודש/Limudei Kodesh Copywork & Activity Printables

Welcome to my Limudei Kodesh / Jewish Studies copywork and activity printables page.  As of June 2013, I am slowly but surely moving all my printables over to 4shared because Google Docs / Drive is just too flaky for me. What you’ll find here: Weekly Parsha Copywork More Parsha Activities More Chumash / Tanach Activities Yom Tov Copywork & Activities Tefillah Copywork Pirkei Avos / Pirkei Avot Jewish Preschool Resources Other printables! For General Studies printables and activities, including Hebrew-English science resources and more, click here . For Miscellaneous homeschool helps and printables, click here . If you use any of my worksheets, activities or printables, please leave a comment or email me at Jay3fer “at” gmail “dot” com, to link to your blog, to tell me what you’re doing with it, or just to say hi!  If you want to use them in a school, camp or co-op setting, please email me (remove the X’s) for rates. If you just want to say Thank You, here’s a

Hebrew/ עברית & English General Studies Printables

For Jewish Studies, including weekly parsha resources and copywork, click here . If you use any of my worksheets, activities or printables, please leave a comment or email me at Jay3fer “at” gmail “dot” com, to link to your blog, to tell me what you’re doing with it, or just to say hi!  If you want to use them in a school, camp or co-op setting, please email me (remove the X’s) for rates. If you enjoy these resources, please consider buying my weekly parsha book, The Family Torah :  the story of the Torah, written to be read aloud – or any of my other wonderful Jewish books for kids and families . English Worksheets & Printables: (For Hebrew, click here ) Science :  Plants, Animals, Human Body Math   Ambleside :  Composers, Artists History Geography Language & Literature     Science General Poems for Elemental Science .  Original Poems written by ME, because the ones that came with Elemental Science were so awful.  Three pages are included:  one page with two po

What do we tell our kids about Chabad and “Yechi”?

If I start by saying I really like Chabad, and adore the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, z"l, well... maybe you already know where I'm headed. Naomi Rivka has been asking lately what I think about Chabad.  She asks, in part, because she already knows how I feel.  She already knows I’m bothered, though to her, it’s mostly about “liking” and “not liking.”  I wish things were that simple. Our little neighbourhood in Israel has a significant Chabad presence, and Chabad conducts fairly significant outreach within the community.  Which sounds nice until you realize that this is a religious neighbourhood, closed on Shabbos, where some huge percentage of people are shomer mitzvos.  Sure, it’s mostly religious Zionist, and there are a range of observances, for sure, but we’re pretty much all religious here in some way or another. So at that point, this isn’t outreach but inreach .  Convincing people who are religious to be… what? A lot of Chabad’s efforts here are focused on kids, including a