Since March is Book Month, I’ve decided to share some awesome novels to read aloud or individually that will enhance your Ancient History Social Studies curriculum. I love making history come alive for my students and when they read historical fiction novels that supplement it, they can relate much easier. Since I taught ELA/Social Studies, I was able to #kill2birdswithonestone by having my 6th graders write book reports that went along with each area of history that we studied. Every month, they reported in a unique way they would make dioramas, travel back in time as reporters, write skits, do a video, create a podcast, make a book commercial, dress as your favorite book character and tell your story. #marchisreadingmonth #novels.
Speaking of time travel, let’s go back to the beginning of the school year, when we studied early man. The Kin by Peter Dickinson is an adventure story that takes place about two hundred thousand years ago in Africa, the dawn of man. Many types of humans existed side by side, some developed language, others had the ability to start fire,yet other groups were not as advanced. Circumstances forced a group of six children, whose parents were killed or captured in an attack, to leave their land in search of a new “Good Place.” They faced many trials and tribulations as they learned to survive on their own in spite of many dangers including: a volcano, an earthquake, a flood, a drought, hungry lions, crocodiles and an evil murderer.This extraordinary read works well with early man as the characters have to learn many things, in the same manner as did our distant ancestors. #Prehistory
Next stop is early Mesopotamia, you know, the place between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Looking for mythology, The Gilgamesh Trilogy consisting of Gilgamesh the King, The Revenge of Ishtar, and The Last Quest of Gilgamesh, re-told and illustrated by Ludmilla Zeman, is a great read aloud with plenty of pictures. This is believed to be one of the first books (twelve clay tablets) ever written. Gilgamesh of Uruk, part god part man, feeling isolated and plagued with melancholy becomes a cold-blooded dictator over his subjects. He drives them to exhaustion and desperation when they’re ordered to build a great wall. Not knowing what else to do, they beg the Sun God for help. He sends Enkidu to earth to live with the animals so they can teach him compassion. Soon, Enkidu falls deeply in love with Shamhat, a temple singer, whom he follows back to Uruk. Once there, he meets Gilgamesh who beats him in a fight, and they later become the best of friends. Together they have many adventures, unfortunately, they anger the Goddess Ishtar, who convinces the Gods to kill Enkidu in retaliation for killing the Bull of Heaven. Finally in the last part of the epic, Gilgamesh searches for immortality.
On to the fascinating Egyptian civilization with two exciting books: Mara, Daughter of the Nile by three time Newbury Award winner Eloise Jarvis McGraw. This historical fiction focuses on Mara who is a spirited and beautiful slave girl living in ancient Egypt during the reign of Queen Hatshepsut. Unlike other slaves, she has learned how to read, write and speak the Babylonian language. She will do anything to break the binds of slavery. To gain her freedom, she plays a dangerous game as a double spy for two enemies who both vie for the Egyptian throne. A great adventure in espionage and an unlikely love story makes for an exciting read that is hard to put down..
Sons of the Sphinx by Cheryl Carpinello, this novel won a 2014 Silver Medal for Preteen/YA from Literary Classics. This book is fascinating for those who love thrillers because it includes time travel, good v.s evil and exciting battles. The story takes place in Ancient Egypt where fifteen year old Rosa hears and talks to dead people. When she consents to assist King Tut’s ghost in his search for the lost queen and clear the family name, she unwittingly falls in love with Tut. The two must outsmart a nefarious pharaoh, who wants them stopped, even though someone will die.
As we continue our journey, we arrive in Greece. The Odyssey by Homer, illustrated by is one of my faves. Upon defeating the Trojans in the war against Troy, our hero, Odysseus, begins a journey back home to Ithaca. Unfortunately, it takes him many years to return because he has angered the gods who send him far away to face adversity and misfortune. He has to outwit a one-eyed Cyclops, overcome the Sirens’ alluring melodies, deal with beguiling enchantresses and so much more. When at last, he arrives home, to his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, he has to thwart the plans of Penelope’s power-hungry suitors who want to take over Ithaca.
Our last stop is Rome, The Thieves of Ostia by Caroline Lawrence is a great read. Our novel takes place in Ostia, a Roman port, in the year 79AD. Flavia Gemina, daughter of a ship’s captain, is a born detective who loves solving mysteries. She and her three besties, Jonathan, a Jewish boy (and secretly a Christian); Nubia, an African slave girl; and Lupus, a mute beggar boy, work together to figure out who and why the watchdogs guarding peoples’ homes are getting beheaded. This novel is based on historical fact and detail is given to its authenticity.