Review of “The Usborne Book of World History”

As a teacher, I have used hundreds of books in my career to instruct and guide students. As such, I decided I would share my thoughts on  some of these books to provide other educators with insights on potential instructional materials,

The Summary

“The Usborne Book of World History” covers, as you can probably guess, the history of the world from the beginning of recorded history to the dawn of the 20th century. Early civilizations such as the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Hittites are covered as well as more recent civilizations such as the Greeks, Romans, British Empire. There are mentions of African ad several Asian civilizations such as the Chinese and Japanese.

The Good

This book is rich with illustrations of all of the historical events and cultural topics. For young readers who are visual learners, this is a superb text for such an experience. In the text, there are illustrations of fighting between the Canaanites and the Philistines, an Assyrian king fighting a lion, life in the city of ancient Athens, and even depictions of settlers moving out west in what would later become the United States. This is completely a visually based learning experience.

The Bad

The focus on illustrations is a strength but also a weakness depending on your goals. The students can get so obsessed with the pictures that they never actually read the text in the book. This can be a problem if you are trying to get your students to develop their reading skills. In addition, The reading level of the text is probably at the 4th-5th-grade level which is beyond younger student.

This book is also not appropriate for a whole class read aloud because several illustrations are crammed onto one page. This would make it challenging for several students to all see what the teacher was talking about at the same time, which could quickly lead to behavioral problems.

Lastly, the book is somewhat detailed oriented in that it provides a bunch of little facts about each Kingdom or historical period. If you want the students to see the big picture you have to trace the themes of history yourself as there seem to be no pedagogical aids beyond the rich illustrations.

The Recommendation

The Usborne Book of World History absolutely deserves 4/5 stars. Buy it and put in your library as an opportunity for your students to “see” history rather than read about it. If you need something for whole-class instruction you better keep looking.

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