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Heroes of the Middle Ages Review by Tammy Walker

Eva March Tappan
Yesterday's Classics
PO Box 3418
Chapel Hill, NC 27515

Have you ever begun a history cycle wishing you were a bit more knowledgeable so that you could teach your children with authority? Do you or your children ever find it difficult to make connections in history between various warring groups, territories, or kingdoms? This text by Eva March Tappan can be a powerful source for assistance on both fronts. The author sought to weave a "tapestry in which, with due colour, may be traced the history of the rise and fall of the various nationalities and the circumstances and mode of life of each." She hoped to give young readers an "approximation" of the time rather than a detailed outline of the specifics.

Tracing history in an overview format, the author first introduces us to Alaric the Visigoth (408 A.D.), weaving a story from the barbarian invasion and ending with the Hundred Years' War and Joan of Arc (1431). The text is divided into seven periods. In the first period ("The Barbaric Invasion"), we are given an overview of Alaric the Visigoth, Attila the Hun, and Genseric the Vandal. In the second period ("The Forming of the Germanic Nations"), we read about Charles Martel, Charlemagne, and others. In the third period ("The Teutonic Invasions"), the reader meets Saint Patrick, William the Conqueror, and Leif Ericsson. The Magna Charta, the life of a knight, and country life in the Middle Ages are a few topics discussed in the fourth period ("The Rise of Nationalities"). In the fifth period ("The Crusades"), we read about Peter the Hermit, Richard the Lion-Hearted, and the Children's Crusade. In the sixth period ("The Time of Progress and Discovery"), many interesting men are discussed, including Roger Bacon, Marco Polo, and John Guttenberg. In the final period ("The Struggles of the Nations"), we read about Robert Bruce, William Tell, Edward the Black Prince, and Joan of Arc.

Each tale briefly covers the essential information leading to the next phase in history, giving background and/or cultural information when relevant. For instance, at the start of the text, we are given a glimpse into Roman life and how the Romans grew idle and unwilling to give up their lives of luxury to enter into the military. This apathy and laziness made them susceptible to penetration by the many warring tribes from without. From here, we see how the Visigoths and the Huns began stripping Rome of its power. Eventually other Germanic tribes come to power, and the Franks and Charlemagne come onto the scene. We slowly see the various groups moving into western Europe and gaining greater power. Then comes an exposition of the Viking invasions.

History 101 being so many years ago for me, I found myself unable to put this text down. I never knew how all of these people and places in history were interwoven. I never knew the accomplishments of many of these well-known and not-so-well-known people, and I wished my professors long ago had given me this simple text to explain these basic interrelationships. The publishers recommend this book for children 11 years old up, but I say it is also a perfect resource for parents who need a quick, introductory course in the Middle Ages.

What you will not get from this text is a lot of detail about any given time period or historical personality. You could choose to use this text as your history spine or as an overview for your student (and yourself). If you want to learn more about William the Conqueror or Joan of Arc, you will need to do further study. What you will get from this text is a simple, easy-to-understand tapestry of events with intriguing cultural information that will aid you in your understanding of the Middle Ages.

Product review by Tammy Walker, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2009