Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sir Tony Robinson's Worst Children's jobs in History illustrated by Mike Phillips

If you follow this blog you will know I rarely talk about non fiction.  Taking this one step further if I AM talking about a non fiction title it must be really GOOD - and yes it is.

If you have students or children who enjoy the Horrible History series rush out and grab a copy of this book which won the Blue Peter Best Book with Facts award in 2007.

There are six chapters in this book each with an intriguing heading :

  • First get yourself some training
  • The great outdoors
  • No hiding place
  • Mean streets
  • Service without a smile
  • Slave to the machine

You can get a feel for the colloquial style found in this book from the very first page.

"Stop reading this book right now! Put it down, walk slowly to the kitchen and open the door of the cupboard under the kitchen sink.  Off you go!  Don't touch anything just look. Are you back yet? Did you see lots of plastic bottles ... they make jobs like cleaning ... quick and easy."

Of course if you'd been alive in the Middle Ages you would not have had access to any of these products and every job would be ten times harder than it is now.

What jobs are we talking about?  Here is a list of some that you may never have heard of and there are lots more too.

  • mudlark
  • costermonger
  • link boy
  • fuller's apprentice
  • jigger-turner
Here is the picture for a fuller's apprentice.  "You had to take off your shoes and socks and climb into a barrel full of other people's wee."  This was the way they processed woven wool.

Each job has an easy to read description and a little job score scroll.  Here are the details for a stepper - a young orphan girl sent from a charity home to scrub doorsteps for a penny each.

Job Score
steps all look the same
Hard Slog
work till your hands and knees are red
very little
nobody notices you

Each chapter ends with a detailed timeline and there is an excellent index.  This is a book you can read quickly or linger over ... you can dip in or read from the first page to the last.  What ever way you read this book you are sure to learn something new and fascinating and perhaps slightly gruesome.  Watch this little film where Tony Robinson visits an exhibition about the worst jobs.

I would pair this book with some fiction titles such as A very unusual PursuitBarnaby Crimes Curse of the Night Wolf, Midnight is a place and Lydie by Katherine Paterson.

I have discovered there are other titles in this series such as these books about World War I and World War II which are popular topics in our library.  These should go on the library shopping list.

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