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*Viking Longship (Fly on the Wall)* by Mick Manning & Brita Granstrom
Viking Longship (Fly on the Wall)
by Mick Manning & Brita Granstrom
Grades 2-3 40 pages Frances Lincoln December 2006 Hardcover    

The Vikings are an often misunderstood lot of raging, rampaging pillagers who sacked countries, pirated ships and burned cities. They were also voracious storytellers, genius shipbuilders and enterprising sailors.

Mick Manning and Brita Granstrom shed light on the Viking culture and history in this frothy but educational book. Rough, colorful artwork splashes on pages with characters named Ragnar, Odin, and the beautiful ship The Sea Dragon.

The author duo take care not to get into many sordid details. Instead, they focus on the progressive culture and craftsmanship of the Viking people. Most of the book reads like a Viking's journal. The pictures are slashed with quick texts that say things like, "Take everything valuable. Burn the rest," and "Grim has spent all his savings on war gear."

Meanwhile, quiet and studious text at the bottom gives an informative, if a little bland, historical account.

Younger children may not care for the history lesson, but they are sure to learn the wonderful names of people and places. There's Grim and his best friend, Uggla, and Ingeborg, the widow of the Viking commander, Ragnar. They will visit places like Jorvik, presently known as England's York. Or Gokstad in Norway, Hedeby in Denmark, and Lindisfarne in Northumbria.

Adults will even learn about Odin, the father of the gods, Thor, the mighty son of Odin who fought evil giants with his hammer, and Frigg, Odin's wife who spun the clouds with her magic loom.

War ravaged the Vikings, but those who remained became skilled farmers. Vikings considered men and women to be equal, something otherwise completely unheard of in this age and in contrast to the rowdy image of Vikings. Often, women were among the proudest Viking warriors.

At nearly 40 pages, Viking Longship is not a quick read. Invest the time with your child, though, and you will have a full-on blast into another realm and time. It's too much fun and too educational to pass up.

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