Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Little History

A few months ago, we paid a trip to the Strand – its one of our favorite weekend activities. We always find a treasure trove of cheapo reads: what I love about it is everyone finds just what their little hearts desire. Seconda stumbled upon the perfect fit –a Disney book with a bit of edge to it. It’s a series called “My Side of the Story” and each of the books are two-sided: you know the deal, where there’s one cover but when you flip over the book, there’s a different cover on the back. One side of the book tells the story of the protagonist – Snow White – and the other side tells the story of the villain – the evil stepmother. Pretty rad.

Primo found some cool bridge books – Franny K. Stein, Beast Quest. I found some memoir so forgettable I don’t even recall the title. David bought a half dozen books by authors I’ve never heard of, being the most voracious reader in our family. And, besides the books he found for himself, he stumbled upon A Little History of the World by Ernst Gombrich to read with Primo. Have you heard of this book (it is, apparently an "international best seller" so not such a long shot)? It is insanely impressive. There’s nothing little about this history, which chronicles human development from the cavemen to the development of the first World War (Gombrich, an Austrian, wrote it in 1930). Put aside for a moment the fact that reading even a few pages of it to your child will make you feel like Parent of the Year – YOU will feel ten thousand times smarter yourself. It is one of those books for kids that is really for everyone, and puts these far-off historical events in an order and context regular people can understand.

David has been reading it to Primo for about a month and so far, they’ve learned about:

Peloponnesian War

Alexander the Great


The Burghers and Franks

The Origins of Lutheranism

The Origins of Buddhism

He will tell me shit about the Huns or the India’s caste system that I had no freaking idea about. The kid is now officially smarter than me (although he probably was at the age of two, when he farted in the tub and announced, “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble!”). I might also benefit from this little history except that David is very possessive of his reading time now that this particular book is involved, so I never get in on the action. He didn’t care a bit when we were getting through Runaway Ralph and How to Train Your Dragon but now its, “Oh no you don’t! I’ll read to Primo tonight. You do fairytales with Sec.” So the two of them are becoming little historical savants while my daughter and I launch an in-depth comparative analysis and close reading of various versions of the Snow White tale. Hey, I'm trying here. (As a side note, I just looked at the two pictures I uploaded at the top of the post and nearly died of horror. On one side is the Disney princess machine and on the other side if a history of the entire world. I'm having a guilt attack. Cinderella ate my daughter, all right, and I let it happen! What can I do? If I try to read Sec a history of anything, she shrieks like she's been torn in half by boredom.)

Go get this book. But be forewarned – there’s no pictures at all. This is hard-core history shit.