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Hell Broke Loose: Battle of Gettysburg Review by Susan Wojtkowski

Dan Abnett, Larry Hama, Steve White
Osprey Publishing
443 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016

History taught through comic books? Isn't that "dumbing down" learning? Oh, ok, I'll just take a peek. WOW! What a great way to appeal to children! Go ahead, laugh. But this is the actual conversation I had with myself prior to reviewing the book Hell Broke Loose: Battle of Gettysburg by well-known comic book authors/artists Dan Abnett (Scooby-Doo, The X-Men), Larry Hama (G.I. Joe, Wolverine), and Steve White (Transformers, Real Ghostbusters).

I had never really found value in teaching children through comic books. That's not the way society learns. We use books, real books and textbooks. However, my opinion changed after reading this book.

Although written in comic-book style, the book is bound in a soft cover. The artwork and colors are brilliant on semi-gloss pages. The retail price of this book (geared for ages 8 and up) is $8.95.

This is the first in Osprey's "Graphic History" series. Each book includes a "who's who" of characters and an overview of the topic before getting into the "story." Another great feature is the actual photographs, maps, and charts related to the topic.

When the comic form of the story has ended, an overview and glossary complete the book. Each volume includes a collectible pullout poster featuring a scene from the story.

The story itself is engaging, without being too intense or graphic. Both of my boys enjoyed the story and used it as a springboard to additional learning about Gettysburg.

While I would recommend this book mainly for boys, girls may appreciate this form of reading as a break from the textbook style of learning. With the benefit of the additional features (overview, maps, glossary, etc.), these "comic books" can be a fantastic supplement to your history curriculum. I look forward to more titles in this series.

Product review by Susan Wojtkowski, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2008