Anyone who says history is boring hasn't encountered the products from Brimwood Press. Color the Western World isn't part of the Tools for Young Historians ten-week course, but it makes a fantastic supplement to any history course, or simply as an introduction to historical chronology (though it's best used after Lessons on Time). Kids will have fun coloring the attractive pictures while learning the general flow of Western history through the major figures, events, and ideas that have shaped it.
While this is basically a pictorial timeline, it isn't your typical timeline in the sense that it isn't date-based. Rather, it focuses on periods, particularly those integral to Greek and Roman, Christian, and modern scientific history, which are portrayed as the three main elements of Western civilization. Each oversized page includes both black-and-white pictures to color and text explaining those pictures.
As with all of Marcia Brim's products, this one is designed to contribute to history literacy rather than a comprehensive knowledge of history. Kids are introduced to the flow of events rather than given in-depth information about them, so that when they pursue deeper study later they're able to understand and recognize the context of things.
The book begins in the Fertile Crescent, and includes ancient Egpyt, Greece and Rome, the Byzantine Empire, Medieval, Renaissance and Reformation Europe, the beginnings of the Modern Era, 19th century America, and the 20th century. Religion, government and science are portrayed as going from integrated aspects of society to different outlooks warring among themselves for preeminence.
By way of climax, the book ends with three figures (John Paul II, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Albert Einstein) whose revolutionary contributions to their respective fields were nonetheless tempered by a respect of the others'. There isn't much commentary in Color the Western World, but the goal is to give kids a big picture inside which they can fit pieces they learn, not to tell them how to think about specific events and people.
Few history resources for children (this is recommended for elementary students) approach history from the perspective of ideas; but then, most history textbooks simply seem like lists of dates and unpronounceable names. Color the Western World helps kids see why things happened and why people thought the way they did, not just that these things were so.
Obviously, this is an excellent addition to the Tools for Young Historians mini-course, but it is equally fine as a supplement to any other history course you happen to be using. Contextualization and the plotline of history are far too often overlooked, and presenting them in the form of a fun timeline to color is pretty ingenious and a great way to get kids interested in a topic they often run from screaming. Highly recommended for any student who needs his or her view of history put into perspective.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.