Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Which Knight Books Are Worth Reading? (20+ Options for History, ELA and More)

The kids focused on Knights for a recent homeschool history fair.

Luke, Nina and Jack have been so into knights and medieval times this year that we have brought home baskets and baskets of knight-related books from the library.  Silly me, however, did not return the books with the same flow with which they came in.  In fact, as life got busy, I hit "renew" far too many times for far too many knight, Jack and the Beanstalk books and other books, thereby causing myself to amass a "due today" list that filled two baskets to the brim.

Our library was able to restock its shelves after we returned this load!

Oops!  That was back-straining mistake that taught me two lessons:

  1. Do not renew so many books on the same day, because then they will all become due on the same day and you (and your back) WILL regret it.
  2. If a borrowed book ends up being "just okay", return it right away.  (You husband, who hates the clutter in the house, and your back, which hates back-straining library return baskets, will thank you!)
The heavy library return also inspired me to take some notes on the knight books I was returning so when we inevitably cycle back around to medieval studies in a year or two or three, I will know which ones are worth borrowing again.

To save you some heavy loads at the library (or to help you pick which books may be worth purchasing if your library system is not as awesome as ours is), I am sharing part of my knight / medieval book list notes.  Only part because if I shared the entire list, this post would seem endless.  So, I just picked the first 20 from the pile and will likely share more another day.

The Castle That Jack Built (Usborne First Reading: Level 3) is a typical Usborne early reader that contains absolutely no historical value, but lots of repetition for developing readers.  Dragons, witches, princes, princesses, mayhem.  It contains them all.  I would not necessarily get it again.

I loved A Day in the Life of a Knight and so did my kiddos.  It framed so many facts into a well-illustrated, well-told story about one knight's day.  It also contained gentle, fun tie-ins to time telling, fact or fiction statements, multiple choice quiz questions and a glossary.  A great blend between story and non-fiction resource, this book is a favorite for young learners that we will get during our next knight/medieval times phase.

Imagine You're a Knight! (Imagine This!) blends facts, fancy and fun illustrations together to make a book that is less educational than it is fun.  My children giggled and pointed out "that's not true" parts as we read it.  In my opinion, it's worth a borrow, but not if your list is already too long.
It's Fun to Draw Knights and Castles was a life-saver for Mike and me when Jack (and sibs) kept asking us to draw them knights.  It really made drawing simple!  It also encouraged us to use different media for creating knights and castles (paint, paper cut outs, tin foil, marker, pencil, etc.) as suggested by the different well-illustrated, step-by-step projects in it.  Plus, tit offered brief "splat-a-facts" to pique learning interest.  This book was one of our favorites.  Great for hands-on, creative kiddos and parents who love artistic endeavors but may not be incredibly skilled with them.

Good Night, Good Knight is a cute, fun early reader about a a knight and some dragons who need help getting to bed.  With no real educational value history wise, we enjoyed it over and over as a bedtime book read by me or Luke.

If You Lived In The Days Of The Knights is jam-packed with easy to access information written in Q&A form.  Not humorously engaging like some of the other books we read and with fewer eye-catching illustrations, the book is still one I would strongly recommend for a short-list as it packs so many understandable facts and explanations in, answering and expanding kids' natural curiosity.
  Knight Fight (Usborne Very First Reading) was an easy, enjoyable read for Luke to entertain his siblings with as well as a book Jack and Nina "read" the pictures of.  With rhyming text, bright illustrations and several pages of puzzles and exercises it makes a worthwhile addition for young learners.

I am not sure why a Knight's Handbook has gone out of print, but I am sure that if your library system does not carry it, it's worth scooping up used.   It is a witty (sometimes sarcastic) and entertaining book that blends facts with silly illustrations and textual tidbits.  Luke loved it as a break from "just the facts" type reads.  Some might be offended by parts of the books humor.

Knights & Castles (100 Things You Should Know About...) contains brief, informational facts, plentiful illustrations, various quizzes and activity ideas and more.  It was great for reading short segments of, for the children to browse on their own and for Luke to read portions to his siblings.

The Knight's Handbook: How to Become a Champion in Shining Armor is an all-in-one book I would purchase if I did not have an awesome library system since it contains a bit of everything:  interesting facts, recipes, crafts, hands-on learning ideas and information about a wide array of knight-medieval times subtopics.  We did not dive as deeply into this book as we could have since I intend to do so when Jack is a bit older and Luke and Nina are more self-directed in their reading and project planning.  In a couple years, this will be an awesome resource for us, I am sure.  It is already, we just had so many good ones, I want to save this one for later.
Luke enjoyed reading the three chapters of The Knight's Handbook: How to Become a Champion in Shining Armor Stories of Knights (Usborne Young Reading) to his siblings after I read it once.  I don't know if I'd recommend buying the book, but it is certainly worth borrowing for young learners who are strengthening their reading skills to enjoy a few simplified tales about Arthur's knights.  Honesty, bravery and honoring one's word play into the themes.

Knights in Shining Armor, like most Gail Gibbons non-fiction books, presents facts and illustrations in a way that engages young learners. It shows the development of a boy from a page into a knight, gets into weaponry and armor and at an age-appropriate level, depicts scenes from daily life and concludes with a brief summary of King Arthur's famous knights.  If I only had a few books I could get for young learners to dive into knights, this would be one of them.  It's fairly simple, yet effective.

Max and Me and the Time Machine was a random book we found at our library.  It has no illustrations save for that on the front cover, but is told in a way that makes imagining the story easy.  We read it together over the course of several bedtimes.  The children loved how history was woven into fantasy in this story of two boys that were transported back to 1250 AD by a time machine.  They want to read more books in the series.

We took out No Sword Fighting in the House: A Holiday House Reader Level 2 only because the boys so like sword play right now.  After I read the book to the kids once, Luke enjoyed reading it to his siblings and the kids enjoyed the storyline and illustrations.  It's a typical early reader and has no historical value, but is worth borrowing fore reluctant readers like mine.  (Luke still prefers to be read to rather than to read himself.)

Real Knights blends brief biographies about 20 knights with details about armor, castle life, tournaments and more. Well illustrated with a wide array of facts and stories, we'll likely get this again in the future, especially to give a broad overview of people, places and topics the kids might want to then dig deeper into.

Stories of Knights & Castles contains stories about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Tables and some lesser known knights.  We read them together and enjoyed the book.  However, the book is not one I would say is a must-have.
Take Care, Good Knight is another book by the same author as Good Night, Good Knight and makes an enjoyable read for youngsters, but hold little history education value.  So, not so important for a history study, but fun for cross-curricula studies and early reading.

I wish that What If You Met a Knight? did not have so much small text because it is a quality read that debunks myths and fanciful images of knights and replaces them with illuminating illustrations and text that engages even as it strains tired-mommy eyes.  We will likely get this one out again when the kids can read it on their own.

You Wouldn't Want to Be a Medieval Knight!: Armor You'd Rather Not Wear is part of a series of history books that my library carries that my oldest enjoys.  With brightly colored illustrations, off-beat humor but plenty of facts, it is anything but a dry presentation of medieval times and knighthood.  We'll be getting it out again when we revisit knights in the future.  The kids find it humorous and I appreciate that they engage in the facts through it.

As I said at the start of this long post, we read a ton of books.  I will likely do a round two on another day.  Until then:

What are some of your favorite books and resources for learning about knights and medieval times?


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