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Our Island Story Review by Heather Jackowitz

H. E. Marshall
Yesterday's Classics
PO Box 3418
Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27515

Our Island Story, by H. E. Marshall, is a history of England for children ages nine to twelve. Marshall beautifully retells both the legends and history of England, from Albion and Brutus to Queen Victoria. First published in 1905, this 2006 reprint includes black-and-white illustrations by A. S. Forrest. Ambleside Online uses Our Island Story for years 1, 2, and 3.

The original introduction explains Marshall's purpose in combining both legend and history:

I must tell you, though, that this is not a history lesson, but a story-book. There are many facts in school histories, that seem to children to belong to lessons only. Some of these you will not find here. But you will find some stories that are not to be found in your school books--stories which wise people say are only fairy tales and not history. But it seems to me that they are part of Our Island Story, and ought not to be forgotten, any more than those stories about which there is no doubt.

So, although I hope you will not put this book beside your school books, but quite at the other end of the shelf, beside Robinson Crusoe and A Noah's Ark Geography, I hope, too, that it will help you to like your school history books better than ever, and that, when you grow up, you will want to read for yourselves the beautiful big histories which have helped me write this little book for little people.

This hefty 650-page book includes 110 chapters and an appendix listing kings from Edward the Confessor. Chapter titles include "The Coming of the Romans," "The Story of St. Alban," "The Founding of the Round Table," "Ethelred the Unready," and "The Battle of Hastings." There are accounts of many English monarchs, including Edward I, Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VIII, Mary I, Elizabeth I, George II, George III, and Victoria.

Our Island Story is well written and fascinating, much like Hillyer's A Child's History of the World. Please be forewarned that Marshall wrote the book many years ago and, therefore, was not compelled to be politically correct. For example, here is a quote from Chapter 109:

For many years, no white people settled in New Zealand, for it was peopled by a wild and warlike race of savages called Maoris. These Maoris were cannibals, that is, people who eat human beings. After a battle, those who were killed would be roasted and eaten by the victors....Yet although they were cannibals, the Maoris were not nearly such a low kind of savage as the Australian, and a missionary called Marsden, hearing about these islands and their people, made up his mind to teach them to be Christian.

At first, I was rather shocked to read this, but upon further research, I discovered that what Marshall wrote was true. I guess I am a product of my own politically correct education!

Our Island Story is a twaddle-free book that will surely liven up your history lessons.

Product review by Heather Jackowitz, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2009