I’ve come to understand that for tweens, creating a love of history is often about making it as salacious and entertaining as possible. The British creators of Horrible Histories have nailed that genre, with a successful series of illustrated Horrible Histories books. Think: the story of the English monarch who died after falling off the toilet (George II), all the gory details about the Roman colosseum, and the nastiness of the Greek gods.
If your older kids can’t get enough of this kind of stuff, they’re now out with a brand new Horrible Histories puzzle series, each of which feels like a cartoon out of Mad Magazine only as educational as it is irreverent. Themes range from the Terrible Tudors to the Putrid Pirates (weren’t they all, really?) to the Rotten Romans.
In the Horrible Histories Cracking Castle puzzle, for example, a pamphlet fills you in on vocabulary like portcullis and crenellations; puns, and fun facts; plus what’s probably the best part for kids–a “test your teacher” quiz with questions like why the bathroom was known as the garderobe. Then of course, there’s that 300-piece puzzle.
It’s not super hard, but it will fill up a rainy weekend quite nicely. And when you’re done, there are so many sight gags to discover (can you spot the soldier peeing off the top of the turret?) your kid will be hard-pressed to put it away before they’ve memorized every nook and cranny of it.
It’s hard to imagine one pre-teen who wouldn’t totally love this kind of learning disguised as playing. With all due respect to the grandma on Amazon who said in her review that she found it totally inappropriate.