The Real Vikings provides insights into the way Vikings lived beyond their plundering and pillaging. The book aims to create a more whole vision of the Viking people to show their every-day life, customs, traditions, religious beliefs, history, and how they helped to shape the world as it is known today.
The book is less than sixty pages and is best suited for someone wanting an introduction to Viking culture. Even for someone who is already familiar with Viking culture, the book could be used as a supplement. Though it is short, it is packed with useful and interesting information. Beyond the text of the book, there are abundant and appropriate pictures and maps to enrich the text. For every point made, there is a corresponding illustration. Children don’t have to imagine what Vikings swords or jewelry looked like—they can see for themselves with the pictures provided in the book.
The book is scholarly and informative, but the language is spot on for younger readers and older readers who may not be reading on grade level. It is not a narrative form, so that will lose some readers, but the information is engaging enough to keep the attention of even reluctant readers. The book traces the history of Vikings from their first emergence to what is considered the end of the Viking age. It provides enough detail to give children an understanding of Viking culture, including dispelling popular myths. Do you know that the horns on helmets of Vikings is not accurate? There is no piece of archeological evidence to support the popular myth that Viking wore horns on their helmets. The book mentions items like that and other archeological finds that do support popular beliefs about Vikings.
The book is a great choice for an informational text to support Common Core standards in a school library or for a patron in a public library needing one for school. It is also good to remember this book and other Viking books as the release of How To Train Dragon 2 comes closer and closer. The movie is obviously about dragons, but the characters in it are Vikings. What better way to get a kid to read than to compare it to actual historical events? Plus, it is based off an excellent book series of the same title that could pair nicely with this also.
The book is recommended for grades 4-6.
Berger, Melvin, and Gilda Berger. The Real Vikings: Craftsmen, Traders, and Fearsome Raiders. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 2003. Print.
Vikings (DK Witness Books) by Susan Margeson
The Medieval World by Philip Steele
D’Aulaires Book of Norse Myths