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Book Review: A Rhyming History of Britain by James Muirden

Author: James Muirden, David Eccles (Illustrator)
Pub. Date: October 2003
Format: Paperback, 213pp
Publisher: Walker & Company
Personal Rating: 4.5/5

I’m not much into poetry, (I can barely read Shel Silverstein), but I love British history. Anglophile that I am, I was glad to come across James Muirden’s, A Rhyming History of Britain. Writing more for his own amusement and desire to remember, Muirden’s couplets tell the sometimes sad but often hilarious history of the reigning monarchs of England from the Celts to the free love 1960’s.

Coupled (see what I did there?) with David Eccles brilliant and hilarious illustrations, this book makes learning very fun. The poem is divided in to section s based on the ruling houses. York and Stuart, Hanover and the current Windsor, each of the foibles and successes of the kings and queens of England are laid out in charming verse.

Muirden himself describes the poem in this way,

This cheerful poem has been written
To tell the history of Britain;
For People puzzled by the Past�
If this means YOU, here�s help at last!

From Celts to Churchill, it relates
(With all the most Important Dates)
Our country�s convoluted course . . .
Why Richard hollered for a horse;
Why Eleanor was such a catch;
Why no one liked the Spanish Match;
The pros and cons of Laissez Faire;
Smart Georgian ladies� underwear;
Why Charles the Second went to plays;
Why Queen Jane reigned for just nine days;
The causes of the Irish trouble;
The bursting of the South Sea Bubble;
That giant glasshouse in Hyde Park;
The First World War�s igniting spark . . .

I thoroughly enjoy this book. The couplets are easy to understand, although a little knowledge of English History will be necessary. Muirden does have to at times be convoluted in trying to rhyme some of the odder words or titles of people and that can slow the reader’s speed.

I highly recommend this book to teachers as a tool for teaching English history (although I know that is not really in vogue anymore) or English teachers teaching Shakespeare or poetry. Some sections are have references to certain sexual acts, but are done tastefully and more by implication than otherwise. High School students will love it, and elementary students will miss it entirely (sort of a English history Shrek).

Anglophiles will chuckle at Muirden’s jokes and curl up in laughter at David Eccles illustrations.

I highly recommend A Rhyming History of Britain as a way to enjoy poetry, learn a little history, and generally enjoy learning in a new and creative way.

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