Horrible Illustrated Histories: Bloodcurdling Box of Books

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OK, let me get something straight.

Reading aloud should be fun.

Always keep in mind that if your sessions are not fun - they are doomed.

And a salvage operation is always more "expensive" than a little additional investment right now - in the form of your time and good books.

This week I am recommending a "horrible" book set that will help your kids enjoy history, while having fun and learning.

This is a book set that I didn't want to miss out on, even though my twins are still not ready for it. So I ordered as fast as I could and now I am reading through it on my own.

History can be horrible.
And the further back in time you go,
the more horrible it becomes in some ways!

I keep it high on my wardrobe (despite the bewildered looks that I am getting from my wife) and I can't wait to start reading it aloud one day, as this book set will serve as proof that history can also be loads of fun.
But, it is not easy finding fun books that are suitable for every point in time. It is a game of hit-and-misses.
So you are allowed to play a trick that will buy you time, lots of time.

If there is one thing that kids love more than a good book, it's a good book series!
About a year ago, I was concerned that my home library of children's books was too heavily slanted towards fiction. So, I decided to diversify.

Reading aloud should cover as wide range of topics as possible.

But that only makes reading aloud an even bigger challenge for you as the "book provider".

I started thinking about it about a year ago - and as a result I ordered this fun-tastic book set named Horrible Histories: Blood-curling Box of Books, authored by Terry Deary and illustrated by Martin Brown.

How can one resist their tag line: "History with the nasty bits left in"

This incredibly successful book series is published by Scholastic and today there are dozens of books that have the Horrible History logo on them.

The Blood-curdling Box of Books contains 20 titles about all important historic ages, from the Stone Age to modern civilization.

The catch?

These books deal with their respective historical period by focusing on the unusual, gory, or unpleasant.

Perfect for attracting the interest of kids - boys especially.

The books are written in very down-to-earth language in a conversational tone and are presented in a "blood-curdling box" with flip-top lid.

The book set has a total of 2880 pages! When I read that .. I was sold.

I desperately need firewood to keep that fire burning in my kids eyes. And 2880 pages will go a long way.

Horrible Histories has sold over ten million copies in the UK alone, and sold over 20 million copies worldwide.

It has been translated into 31 languages which has gone on sale in 37 countries worldwide.

These are not text books, rather they are humorous takes on history that are accompanied with a large number of cartoon-like illustrations that keep the narrative flowing.

Admittedly, this series has a bit Anglo-centric view of world history, but it doesn't mean its not great!

It simply means that there is even more history to learn about! How cool is that?

Where is the list of contents, you say? OK, here goes:

1. Savage Stone Age
2. Awesome Egyptians
3. Groovy Greeks
4. Ruthless Romans
5. Cut-throat Celts
6. Smashing Saxons
7. Vicious Vikings
8. Stormin' Normans
9. Angry Aztecs
10. Incredible Incas
11. Measly Middle Ages
12. Terrible Tudors
13. Slimy Stuarts
14. Gorgeous Georgians
15. Vile Victorians
16. Villainous Victorians
17. Barmy British Empire
18. Frightful First World War
19. Woeful Second World War
20. Blitzed Brits

Now that you have got your kids hooked on Horrible History, you will be able to seek out many other books from this series to add to your collection.

The other books are not part of the book set, but they are available as separate purchases.

Do you want a Horrible Histories title about the USA? Then check out Horrible Histories in the USA.

Or a Horrible History of the entire planet? Well, then look no further than the Horrible History of the World.

But what was I saying about book sets earlier?

Yes, great book sets are irresistible to kids and they will practically beg you until you go through all the books in a favorite book set.
There are many different types of book sets ... and most can be of great help for the devoted read aloud parent.

One of the most popular book sets that springs to mind is the Magic Tree House adventure book set (1-28), which includes addictive stories that practically
lead you from one book to another.

If your kids get hooked, there is no letting up until you read all 28 books (in the book set) or the 40+ books that were published!

So your task is just to "sell" the first book, the rest will follow on their own.

Then there are book sets such as the New York Review Children's Collection set, which includes children's literature classics that went out of print and were published once again as part of this edition.

There are many other excellent choices - from Harry Potter to the smashing The Complete Wreck (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-13).

Just look at the number of pages that a good book set can contain: The Complete Wreck (3243 pages in all!), Harry Potter (more than 3300 pages), not speak of the dozens of others great book series for kids.

Imagine the hours of bliss ... while you are reading together!!

If you want to find good book series I recommend you start by reading two truly tremendous posts on children's book series that were (re-)published on Jen Robinson's Book Page in February 2011.

I enjoyed them enormously and they will certainly help you to find a great book series to enjoy.

These two unmissable posts are Favorite Series Titles (Children's and Young Adult) and Two Types of Series Books.

So don't lose time, start reading a book series and put the smile back onto the face of your listeners!

Oh, yes, and - don't forget to have fun with history and the great Horrible Histories: Blood-curdling Box of Books

History has never been so horrible!

Horrible Histories: Bloodcurdling Box of Books is available from bookstores in the US:


The Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

and from other countries:

Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Amazon DE

Or check out an Audible audio edition of a Horrible History book below:



  1. My son got where he wouldn't bring Horrible Histories to school, because too many people wanted to borrow them! They are brilliant. My husband bought one as a gift for my son every time he was in the UK.

  2. Okay, I've seen these mentioned on homeschooling message boards, and I wonder: just how horrible are they? Are they very, very gross and graphic?

  3. Thanks so much for your kind words Gathering Books. Indeed, the entire collection is a great addition to a home library as kids are drawn  to it as like moths to a light ... 

    By the way, there is also a flip-top box with the Horrible Science 20-book series. Check it out, it's called The Bulging Box of Books: Horrible Science: http://ow.ly/5ynjZ . I plan to review it soon, as well. 

    You can't go wrong with either of them. They are fabulous entertainment for the young mind. 

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

    Read Aloud Dad

    RE: Gathering Books 

  4. Such an amazing review. I've reviewed Horrible Christmas by Terry Deary and I've always borrowed some of his books from the library for a read-aloud with my nine year old. But reading this review makes me want to buy the entire set!!! I am such a sucker for series/book sets. I didn't realize there was a 'blood-curdling' box that goes with it. You got me at 'flip-top lid.'

  5. Thank you! I LOVE books, even the cute kid books, and love reading to my kids. I also love history. I'm so happy I found this recommendation because now I get the best of both worlds!!! I love horrible histories, and I've learned about as much as my kids--I probably know more about British History even though I'm not British! Thanks again for the recommendation, I am hooked!

  6. Hi Sebastian! 

    Your comment was so unexpected and so full of positive energy - I can't take this grin off my face!

    It is soooooooooooo nice to hear about dads loving reading aloud to their kids! And it is perfect that you love the Horrible Histories series. It is horribly interesting, isn't it?

    You got my fingers itching! I want to take those books off the shelf and start reading them aloud at once. Right Now!!

    Thanks for sharing the enthusiasm ... parental enthusiasm for reading children's books will change the world for our kids!

    You made my day Sebastian!

    Read Aloud Dad

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