This review was nearly impossible to write, because I couldn’t get my nose or my family’s noses out of the book! And don’t even get me started on the wonderful Internet links! Whew! Usborne Books has a long-standing reputation for excellent, educational, and interesting books that kids love! They have hundreds of titles on everything from history to science.
My family reviewed The World Wars ($25.99), which is part of their Internet-linked series of books. As with all of the Usborne Books we have read over the years, The World Wars gives an impressive amount of information in a very readable format. The text is presented in small pieces that are easily absorbed and each page has wonderful full-color graphics, maps, diagrams, photos, etc., which make the history really come alive for the reader. The book is very well organized and well balanced in its presentation of history. We read about some of the events leading up to and following the two worst wars in history, and everything about the wars themselves from how spies played an important part, to technological advances, to trench warfare, to the human toll experienced by civilians.
Much of the information was familiar, but we found much of it to be new and very interesting. For example, the secret of the Manhattan Project to build an atomic bomb was so well guarded that Vice President Truman did not know about the project until he became president in April 1945, upon President Roosevelt’s death. We also learned that Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and King George V of Great Britain (all in power during the build-up of World War I), were all grandsons of Queen Victoria! I’m guessing Christmas dinner was a bit interesting for this amazing family!
The World Wars is written for children ages 10 and up, although my husband and I enjoyed reading it just as much as my 14-year-old son. We thought there was a good balance between in-depth information and a broad scope of topics mixed together with excellent graphics to keep interest high. There were pages and pages of warfare trench diagrams, weapon systems, tanks, etc., but also great coverage of the human side of these devastating wars in the 256-page book. Usborne did a very nice job of showing the devastation of the wars in pictures, without gratuitously graphic pictures. For example, pictures of Auschwitz-Birkenau showed a picture of the faces of the victims taken when the camp was liberated, but did not show the pictures of dead bodies stacked high that are a harsh reality of the terrible events of World War II, but are probably more than younger children are prepared to handle.
One of our favorite features was the Quicklinks listed on most pages that lead readers to additional (prescreened) websites with more information. For example, on page 136, there is a link to a website where you can watch archive footage of Germany’s invasion of Poland, or on page 84 there is a link to more information about espionage during World War I. See www.usborne-quicklinks.com for samples of the links available. You simply choose the book you are reading, enter the page number for the link, and can easily delve much deeper into any interesting topic.
So, how could this fascinating tome fit into your homeschool? Unschoolers might enjoy having it on the shelf to spark an interest in their children. The World Wars would also form the basis for an excellent unit study for a range of ages and grades, with many resources online to search deeper on any topics of particular interest. Or, it would be a tremendous supplement for your study of the world wars. If you are studying the world wars with your children, or you just have an interest in history, it would be hard to find a better resource full of historical information, incredible graphics and pictures, and Internet links! We heartily recommend The World Wars!