When the Histronauts travel back in time to the Viking era they'll need your help to uncover the secrets of the past. Forage for food, decipher runes, build beautiful burial boats and hear all about a Viking raid. An exciting mix of story, facts and activity!
Reviewed by Sarah Merchant
The Histronauts: A Viking Adventure When I was young, I was given the impression that Vikings predominantly slashed and burned their way across the world, so I am pleased to have read this book, as it draws attention to more reasoned, constructive activities in Viking exploration, trade and settlement. I would use this text with children aged eight to twelve years old to challenge stereotypical and prejudicial thinking in general. The ‘Why?’ is added to each ‘What?’ and gives a deeper understanding of past thoughts, emotions and actions.
The Histronauts are three children and an inquisitive cat, Hero, who travel to the Viking era. This book is highly interactive – the reader is addressed throughout, and this is a strength. A child may well feel that they are the fifth Histronaut! When actively involved in this way, I feel that young people will want to think, compare, contrast and create. The text has been written by, Frances Durkin, a historian who does not shy away from using specific vocabulary, such as ‘skald’ and ‘nalbinding’. With a clear contents page, fold-out map and glossary, children can navigate their own way through the text – it would be easy for any parent, teacher or librarian to dip in at given points too.
The framing of the illustrations is excellent. Cropped panels encourage children to spot significant details, such as a single silver coin or the cat’s comedic interpretation of an event. The deliberately calm, natural colour palette works well – muted blues, greens and greys depict oceans, mountains and forests. Importantly, some pages have no words. Words are not needed here as the illustrations continue the narrative effectively. I can see all children, regardless of confidence in reading English, adding their own dialogue and story. Where dialogue is included on other pages, it is in the present tense, adding immediacy.
There are many cross-curricular links and activities suggested throughout the book. Children are invited to draw a longboat in stages, construct a magnetic compass, dye cloth, make non-alcoholic mead and convert mathematical measurements. The balance of information and fiction is extremely well-judged. If educators are looking to include a diverse range of readers and foster independence in navigating a text, this is a great choice.
There may be little reference to Vikings setting things alight, but this text is likely to ignite a passion for the past. I do hope that this series continues to grow.