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World History in Verse Review by Jennifer Harrison

David Manley
2932 Churn Creek Rd.
Redding CA 96002

World History in Verse is a self-published book written in rhyming verse with fun illustrations to help tell the story of the Old Testament as well as the history of Ancient Egypt. The story is presented by the character Professor Archie Ology, which is hand-drawn and sports colorful bowties. The book also has a hidden ducky on every page if readers want to hunt as they go through the book. Though Bible stories and Egyptian history are the focus of the book, Sumer, Babylon, and Rome also make an appearance as history is presented chronologically with Bible stories. The end of the book also includes a picture timeline (no words) and a map.

The book presents history from a Christian perspective and, since we are a Christian family that loves history, I was excited to receive the book. It has received many positive reviews, and it is obvious that a lot of work has gone into it. I feel bad for saying it, but I have to be honest: my family just did not like this book.

I suppose our first problem was deciding how to fit it into our studies. When I chose the book, I thought it was a book done in rhyme to help students memorize key historical events. This would be an amazing supplement to own, but that is not what the book is for. It is very broad in scope, covering creation to Rome, but it is impossible to cover history in depth with 58 pages of rhyme, so it does not work as any sort of textbook. It does not really help teach anything that isn't already covered in our regular history studies, so it didn't work as a supplemental read either. Perhaps, as an end-of-the-year recap, it could make a fun read.

I tried to read just a few pages a day, during our history lessons, but my children finally asked if we could just skip it. I have four children between the ages of 5 to 14, and the book wasn't enjoyed by any of these age groups. Since it was just a few pages per day, I continued to read anyway. But then we got to page 34 and read about mummies. The kids patiently listened as I read:

Bodies that are saved like this
would make an awful tent;
can you picture moving in
if it was for rent?

Honestly, I had been tuning out as I read to the kids, so it took me a couple times of reading the passage to process. Finally, I had to concede that we were wasting precious school-time and I closed the book. I have finished the book myself so that I could share an honest review, but I didn't make the kids listen any more.

A lot of love and effort went into putting so much history into rhyming verse, and some of it is rather impressive. But some of it is stilted, with awkward rhythms. For instance, when reading about the Ten Commandments:

Fifth, we always are to treat
parents really, really nice;
Sixth, He told us murder's not
an option, but a wicked vice;

The section on Abraham begins well:

Abraham did not believe
just everything he heard,
but was a man who DID BELIEVE
when God gave him His word.

But then the rhythm slips:

It's kind of like you do when mom
has promised to make lunch;
you assume it will appear
when it's time to munch.

It's only one syllable, but it ruins a read-aloud very quickly. Separating "it's" into "it is" would solve the problem immediately, but this is not the only section with rough rhythm.

As I've said before, even with good rhythm, the book just did not fit any of our needs. I think that if a child didn't enjoy history much or didn't realize how Bible history coincides with world history, perhaps it could be used to add a whimsical touch to lessons. But if students already love history, they probably wouldn't enjoy having this book added to their lessons.

Product review by Jennifer Harrison, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, November 2011