We started Jeannie Fulbright's Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology book today. Jemimah is excited to be learning about the human body, and was rather disgusted to discover that today's lesson was an introductory lesson covering the history of medicine rather than launching straight into the blood, guts and gore. Oh well. Soon kid, soon.
We looked at the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews today, and I was surprised to learn how much Jemimah knew about the Egyptians and their process of mummification. She knew more than I do, that's for sure.
Well, after impressing me with her superior knowledge, she finally confessed that all she knows was gleaned here.
Yep, it's Horrible Histories - I should have known! This, I whisper quietly behind my hand, is one of my daughter's favourite shows. She likes the books too, but the telly is better, she says. I think I would be more critical of the series if it were not for the information that Jemimah has learned and retained from watching them. She knows the names of all the English kings, for example. Which is pretty impressive, me thinks, if you want a party trick.
The author of the books, Terry Deary, freely admits that his books are designed to "entertain first, and inform second", by concentrating on the unusual, the gory, the amusing, and the unpleasant. They're everything I don't like in a book, filled as they are with bottom jokes, bodily fluids and daggy jokes. Jemimah loves them. For probably the same reasons. I don't like their non-linear format, the simple language and the short chapters. On the other hand, the books are factual, and they're not dumbed down. Well, they are, but not in the way I'm given to use the phrase. They speak directly to children in a way they love and understand.
There are many modern books written with the same format as Horrible Histories that I do not encourage my daughter to read. Wimpy Kid is an example. I make an exception for Horrible Histories books and telly programmes though because Jemimah consistently demonstrates that she is learning real history from them. It may have a bias different to the one I am teaching her in school, but that can only be a good thing, I suppose.
What do you think? Are Horrible Histories twaddle to be avoided at all costs, or does the series have merit? I'm on the side of the latter. Jemimah's narration this afternoon just confirmed it for me.
I'd like to hear your thoughts, though. What do you say?