"This past summer I searched up and down for an ancient history text age appropriate for middle schoolers. Voila! Not surprisingly, Oxford University, or its tendrils, provides this beautifully conceived book that not only contains a slew of fine, colorful illustrations by Connolly, but also perfectly fits a traditional curriculum tied to the development of western civilization.
The find was certainly fortuitous. The text of this ancient history, however, is often awkward, and not simply because Burrell writes in a myopically and ultimately insensitive Anglocentric style. The British tone and jargon are fine and offer many "teachable moments," (case in point: "There were no lifts, of course - nor could poor people (Romans) afford expensive glazed windows. You didn't need them in a sticky Roman summer but when the weather got worse, the only way to keep the flat's temperature up and the rain out was to close the wooden shutters.") That's all fine and good -- lifts, glazing, and flats -- the problem arises from some dodgy grammar and bizarre verb shifts that make reading the text, even for adults, an occasional strain. My students have even pointed out many typos, the result obviously of the same shoddiness that characterizes British newspapers, which though written with great erudition, often seem scrawled in haste and edited by lager louts with licensing hours at the forefront of the brain.
Errors aside, the book is a wonderful introduction to ancient history with a special, and completely justified, emphasis on the Greeks and Romans. Where would we be without them? The paperback edition, though seemingly robust, doesn't hold up well to middle school abuse. American backpacks wreck havoc on the poor thing. Many of our copies will be totally shot by year's end -- a pox on Oxford University Press for the decision to cease publication of the hardback edition. Argghh! Must say that I've learned a tremendous amount from reading this colorful, informative book and have not encountered its rival for adolescents." Michael S. Mahoney said.
"M 12 year old picked up this book to read from the library and his interest in it lasted all summer. We had to check it out of the library 3 times! It is due back again to the library today so I am finally going to purchase it for him as he seems to keep referring back to it and has a real interest in continuing to research it. This is something he has done on his own and not for any class. It must be a good book to keep him interested in it for going on 5 months! The sections on Greek and Roman armies seem to capture his imagination the most." A Mom said.
"I bought this book for my 10 year old son last year, as he is very interested in history. It was such a big hit that I am buying it for two of his cousins this year. It has a chatty, informal tone, which combines with lots of illustrations and great research to deliver a lot of knowledge painlessly. He has read it repeatedly and it should continue to be useful for many years." Amazon Customer said.
"We are using this as a spine text for my 6th grader. As others said, the binding is not very tight and it is clear it isn't going to wear well, even though we don't use backpacks. The pictures are great and we haven't found the text to be too laborious, although there are typos. It does give a very good overview with short chapters and engaging text. We are creationists and this is written from an evolutionary perspective, but I haven't found a text of the same quality with a creationist perspective. So there is a lot of discussion for us, but we are enjoying the book." Michele Elliott said.
"The Oxford First Ancient History is worthy of recommendation it gives its readers an understanding of early civilization it also gives us a window into the world of historians, archaeologists and the methods and interpretations used to map out our past. This book is truly a fascinating tour into the past. Every page is brimming with full color illustrations, maps drawings photographs artifacts, sculptures amazing quantity of visual cues to broaden our understanding and value of these ancient civilizations. Easy to read and even easier to understand, because of it,s inviting combination of both, narration and pictures the reader can easily identify with and compare what their reading to what it was. I thoroughly enjoyed how the author was able to capture my immediate attention and how the book was thorough in it's presentation from cave man to Rome." Peppercorn said.
"For the person who doesn't have time to sift through many books on most of the relevant historic civilizations with all their many details.
If you want to have enough information to engage the average history enthusiast in an intelligent conversation this is an excellent book. It says for children, but many adults would also benefit and enjoy it as well. The scholarly types might turn up their noses, but for us average folks I highly recommend it." Duke said.
"I bought this for a bible + world history outline class intended for the whole family. But my children are 8 and 6 and the writing is not always that interesting esp for these younger children. I will substitute the readings w/ other books for now. What is nice are (most ) of the pictures. Some are a little bit disturbing esp the pictures of the Christians and the lions in the arena." Rika said.
"It is nice to read a history book for kids that is politically correct. They actually talk about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is an easy read for the 4-6th grade age. Short on details but covers a lot of topics." J.Adams said.