David Long and Stefano Tambellini are a tried and tested Barrington Stoke partnership and once again they serve up a brilliant and knowledge-rich historical read.
Between 793 and 1066 CE, a period during the Middle Ages, Norsemen knows as Vikings were at the forefront as they raided, colonised and conquered their way across Europe. Reaching as far afield as North America, Asia, Africa, Russia and the Middle East, this terrifying force changed history across the globe. At times brutal, they were also merchants, expert sailors and master craftsmen. They fished and farmed, taught their children practical skills and voted democratically to pass laws and settle disputes. Incredible adventurers and brave explorers, the Vikings would leave a lasting impression on the world…
Reading a David Long and Stefano Tambellini book is like going on one of those school trips I remember as a child, or more recently, leading as a teacher, where you are immersed in a different time period. Imagine going back to Roman times at Caerleon in Wales, experiencing the industrial revolution and post-war prosperity at the Black Country Museum, or sampling Viking life at the JORVIK Viking Centre in York and you get a feel for what author and illustrator are able to conjure up with words and pictures. Essentially, in What was it like to be a…VIKING you feel like you have travelled back in time to the eighth century and are there experiencing everything first-hand.
Children love learning about the Vikings! Talk of pillaging, raiding, looting, plundering, adventure, battling and conquering is always a source of much excitement. Across ten fact-filled and easy to engage with chapters, everything children could want to know about a fascinating period in history is touched upon as Long and Tambellini bring alive all of the best, worst and misunderstood bits of Viking life.
Whilst there is way too much information to fit into a book of this size, it is a brilliant overview of a fascinating period in history and provides an excellent starting point for further research. Long achieves the feat of creating a guide that feels concise yet incredibly comprehensive as he explains what life was like for Vikings, the archaeological finds that have helped historians learn about this civilisation and the influences that have remained long after the Vikings have gone.
The first chapter dispels any myths of all Vikings donning horned-helmets, having beards and being blood-thirsty warriors, in fact we learn that plenty were peaceful and enjoyed poetry, telling stories and creating beautiful works of art. Further chapters cover day to day life, roles and responsibilities, Norse Gods, runes, craftsmanship, sailing, trading, raids, famous battles and power struggles. In a period of history that lasted under three hundred years an awful lot happened and this account emphasises that the Vikings were more than just raiders and pillagers as we learn that they were discoverers of new lands, made friends and enemies, developed trade links and were responsible for the world’s oldest surviving parliament.
Tambellini’s artwork is superb; battle scenes capture the ferocity of Viking warriors, cutaways are excellent - I particularly like the peek inside a Viking longhouse, labelled scenes are detailed and maps are utilised effectively. This is an essential book for the classroom that will be devoured by young historians and will enhance learning and generate interest during a Viking topic. True to Barrington Stoke form, this read is printed in dyslexia friendly font and on tinted paper ensuring the book can be accessed by every child.
Look out for the next book in the series, What it was like to be an…ANCIENT ROMAN, that hits the shelves in July.
Recommended for 8+.
With huge thanks to Barrington Stoke for the copy I received in exchange for an honest review.