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Children's Books About The Viking Age

Dear Viking Answer Lady:

My family is of Scandinavian heritage, and I would like to help my children learn more about our Viking ancestors. Christmas is coming, so I thought I'd see if you could recommend some children's books about the Viking Age.

(signed) North Dakota Mom

Gentle Reader:

The season of Yule is almost upon us. The smell of evergreen is already overwhelming the aromas of roasting turkey. And once again the Viking Answer Lady brings to you a shopping list for your Yule gifts.... this time for the little (or even not-so-little) Vikings in your garth. Here are my picks for Yule presents for Father Thor to tuck under the tree!

I recommend these books to adults as well as kids. There are frequently better illustrations & photos of artifacts in the so-called "children's books" that aren't found elsewhere, plus since these books are heavily illustrated, they often are more faithful to the latest research than the "grown-up" books, whose authors may not have taken the time to struggle with that archaeological report in Swedish!

The best place I have located for finding children's books on Norse mythology and the Vikings is Amazon.com, the on-line bookstore. If Amazon doesn't have it available, they will do a book search for you.

If Amazon.com can't find the book you're looking for, you may want to try the Children's History or Children's Mythology section at your local used book store. Many times these books are absolutely new books that were either overstocked or slightly damaged, but which you pay much less than retail for. Of course, the full price on many of these is quite affordable to begin with. This is an advantage for adults wishing to learn more about the Vikings and Norse mythology: there is less to read, it is information-dense, and the price is right... $4 to $10 per book on the average.




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BOOKS

Make This Viking Settlement Ashman, Iain. Make This Viking Settlement. Usborne Cut-Out Models Series. London: Usborne. 1988.

Reading level: Ages 9-12. This book, plus scissors & glue, will become a OO/HO scale model of a Viking village similar to the trading town of Hedeby. One day when I have room to leave a fragile cardboard model set up in a cabinet somewhere, I plan to build mine. Your kids will enjoy building and playing with the village as well. I believe that Usborne also has a Viking helmet in their Cut Out Series as well.
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Cover Picture Not Available At This Time Branston, Brian. Gods and Heroes from Viking Mythology. The World Mythology Series. Peter Bedrick Books. 1994.
Also available in Spanish as Dioses Y Heroes De La Mitologia Vikinga Rei Amer. 1985. ISBN: 8420738387

Reading level: Young Adult. A collection of 28 Viking myths and legends. Includes are an illustrated family tree of the major Viking Age gods and goddesses, an index, and a guide to the symbols in the illustrations.
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Bog Bodies Buell, Janet. Bog Bodies. Time Travellers Series. New York: Twenty-First Century Books. 1997.

Reading level: Ages 9-12. This book tells the stories of how the remains of several of the pre-Viking, Celtic-culture Iron Age people were mummified and preserved within Northern European bogs, most apparently sacrificed to pagan gods or goddesses. Discusses the daily lives of these people, their culture and myths, plus the science involved in recovering these bodies. This book does not discuss the Vikings, but rather their predecessors. The photos of mummified remains might be too scary for smaller children, but will be a hit with the kids who've gotten to the age where they think "gruesome" is great.
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The Everday Life of a Viking Settler Caselli, Giovanni. The Everday Life of a Viking Settler. The Everyday Life Of... Series. New York: Peter Bedrick Books. 1992.

Reading Level: ages 9-12. The story of a young boy named Egil, his everyday life on a 900's Danish farm, and the traveler's tales his Viking-trader father tells him. A fun book to read to your little Vikings, also includes many illustrations showing typical Viking life and costume.
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Who Were The Vikings? Chisholm, James and Struan Reid. Who Were The Vikings? Usborne Starting Point History Series. London: Usborne. 1995.

Reading Level: ages 9-12. This is a great little book that's crammed full of tiny, detailed drawings that you have to examine as closely as a "Where's Waldo?" book or you'll miss really funny and educational stuff. This book answers questions that kids really ask, like, "What kind of toilets did the Vikings use, and why didn't they freeze their rumps off?" There are also good line drawings of clothes, artifacts and activities. While the text is geared for an older child, this book captivates younger children when read aloud, and the detailed drawings encourage little children to make up their own creative stories about the pictures. This is the second-best Viking book I recommend to childern and adults alike.
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Viking Raiders Civardi, Anne, J. Graham-Campbell, and Phillippa Wingate.. Viking Raiders Time Traveller Series. E D C Publications. 1998.

Not Reviewed. Reading level: Ages 9-12
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The Vikings - Living History Series Clare, John D., ed. The Vikings. Living History Series. New York: Gulliver/Harcourt Brace & Co. 1992.

Reading Level: ages 9-12. This is a really good little book, and is tied for second place as my favorite in this list. All the illustrations are photos of excellently costumed people, equipped with reproductions of Viking artifacts. A brief look at the world of the Vikings, examining their culture, society, shipbuilding techniques and voyages, Viking explorations in Greenland and North America, and more. Children's lives and activities are not overlooked in this book, as they all too frequently are in some of the other children's books. My favorite photo is a shot reconstructing Audr the Deep-Minded having her house pillars put overboard to show where in Iceland she should land.
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The Norse Myths Crossley-Holland, Kevin. The Norse Myths. New York: Pantheon. 1980. (lg. paperback - $16.00).

Reading Level: Young Adult. This is an excellent beginning book for older children and adults alike who want to learn about the myths and legends of the Norse. The writing style is well-suited to reading the tales aloud to smaller children as well. I highly recommend this book.
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The Vicious Vikings Deary, Terry. The Vicious Vikings. Horrible Histories Series. New York: Scholastic. 1998.

Reading Level: Ages 9-12. Scholastic describes this series as "history with the nasty bits left in!" These books are designed to get children interested in history by concentrating on the trivial, unusual, gory, or unpleasant. Corny jokes and plentiful colorful illustrations make it easy to get your child interested in learning more about the Vikings, although the factual content of the book is quite a bit lower than the general Viking history book aimed at children.
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Vile Vikings Dobson, Mary. Vile Vikings. Smelly Old History Series. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2005.

Reading Level: Ages 9-12. This is supposed to be a scratch-and-sniff guide to the hygeine and culture of the Vikings. The ideas is a great one which would really appeal to kdis at that stage where they are fascinated by "gross-outs", but the scratch-and-sniff blocks have almost no smell. The engaging cartoon illustraions are good, but the factual content is low.
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Usborne Illustrated Guide Norse Myths and Legends Evans, Cheryl and Anne Millard. Usborne Illustrated Guide Norse Myths and Legends. London: Usborne. 1986.

Reading level: Young Adult. While the illustrations owe much to fantasy role-playing games rather than reflecting actual Viking art, the information packed into this litle book is superb, and serves as an excellent introduction to the Norse myths and legends.
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Focus on Vikings Ganeri, Anita. Focus on Vikings. New York: Shooting Star Press. 1993.

Reading Level: ages 9-12. This is the Viking children's book that I actually do recommend for children. It has OK pictures and good information, but also includes neat art projects such as building a Viking helmet from papier mâché. A brief survey of Viking civilization, discussing their society, religion, daily life, and accomplishments as seamen and explorers.
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Great Adventures of the Vikings Geipel, John. Great Adventures of the Vikings. In Search of Lost Worlds Series. Chicago: Rand McNally. 1977.

A nice overview of the Vikings, including details about their ships and a few selections from the sagas and history. Also has good artist's reconstructions of Viking clothing and ships.
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Everyday Life in Viking Times Gibson, Michael. Everyday Life in Viking Times. Peoples of the Past. Hemel Hempstead Hersforshire UK: Simon and Schuster Young Books. 1976 (reprint 1993). ISBN 0750014725.

Reading Level: ages 9-12. Discusses the culture and history of the Viking Age in surprising depth for such a little book. Includes information about Viking Age life, families and children, traders and craftsmen, ships and shipbuilding, warriors and raiders, myths, legends and some famous Vikings. This book has some excellent drawings reconstructing Viking life and clothing -- although about half show women in the "old style" apron dresses that we now know are incorrect.

An Introduction to Viking Mythology Grant, John. An Introduction to Viking Mythology. Secaucus NJ: Chartwell. 1990. ($12.98 at Half-Price Books)

Reading Level: Young Adult. This book is like a short encylopedia, arranged alphabetically by subject, of the Norse gods, myths and heroes. The book begins by introducing the characters that figure in the Norse myths, from the great gods such as inn, Freyr, rr, Freyja, plus giants, dwarves, valkyries and others. Later the book dicusses the Viking creation myths, tales of the gods and goddesses, the homes of the gods, and Ragnarokr. It's a handy reference for any adult's bookshelf as well. Adult medieval recreationists will particularly appreciate the photos of masterfully reconstructed Viking Age helms.
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Eric the Red: The Viking Adventurer Grant, Neil. Eric the Red: The Viking Adventurer. What's Their Story Series. Oxford: Oxford Univ Press. 1998.

Note: I have not read this book yet. Reading level: Ages 4-8.
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Going to War in Viking Times Gravett, Christopher. Going to War in Viking Times. Armies of the Past Series. New York: Franklin Watts. 2000.

Reading Level: Ages 9-12. This little 32-page book offers a brief introduction to the Viking warrior, raiding, and the great Viking armies.
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Usborne Time Traveler Hindley, Judy and Philippa Wingage, eds. Usborne Time Traveler. E.D.C. Publishing. 1998.

Reading Level: ages 9-12. Explores the history of the Egyptians, Romans, Vikings, and Middle Ages.
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You Wouldn't Want to Be a Viking Explorer! Langley, Andrew and David Salariya. You Wouldn't Want to Be a Viking Explorer!. New York: Franklin Watts (Scholastic). 2000.

Reading Level: Ages 9-12. A light-hearted exploration of the perils faced by early explorers, with information about Viking culture and history. They braved rough seas and didn't shower for months -- they are the adventurers and explorers who discovered the world around us.
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Myths and Legends of the Vikings Coloring Book Lindow, John. Myths and Legends of the Vikings. Santa Barbara, CA: Bellerophon Books. 1979.

Reading Level: Young Adult. This excellent little coloring book is chock-full of line drawings of Viking Age art and artifacts, carefully selected to accompany the brief text retellings of the Norse myths by a noted scholar of the Viking Age. Based on the nature of Viking Art, I think this book would be fun to color for young children as well as older ones. The paper is fairly heavy-weight, suitable for crayon or marker, but not paints, and some markers may bleed through. The best use of this particular coloring book is not for children, however, but for artists wishing to utilize Viking Age artistic motifs in their own work -- this book provides line drawings which can easily be used as artist's cartoons for projects ranging from embroidery to woodwork to stained glass to carving and so on. Your child may enjoy this book, but get an extra copy for yourself.
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A Viking Town MacDonald, Fiona and Mark Bergin. A Viking Town. Inside Story. Brighton UK: Macdonald Young Books Ltd. 1995.

Reading Level: ages 9-12. A detailed look at what life was like in a Viking trade town such as Hedeby or Birka. Discusses the Viking world, how towns were built, Viking houses and streets, country life, food and drink, beliefs, family life, sports and recreation, trade and crafts, shipbuilding, raiding, and Vikings in Russia. Includes a nice, brief outline of Viking Age history at the back. Excellent line drawings of Viking life and Viking men's clothing. Unfortunately, these folks didn't keep up with the current scholarship on Viking women's clothing at all. Nonetheless, a nice book and interesting for young readers, and the detailed drawings wil encourage creativity and imaginative storytelling by smaller children who have the book read to them.
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The Vikings: 350 Years of Adventure to Unlock and Discover Treasure Chest Series MacDonald, Fiona. The Vikings: 350 Years of Adventure to Unlock and Discover. Treasure Chests Series. Running Press. 1997.

Children are delighted with the "treasures" contained within as well as with the book. Reading level: Ages 9-12. Includes a cardboard Viking ship to assemble, a board game and pieces for hnefatafl, cardboard runes, 2 posters, and a small book that gives a good introduction to the Viking world.
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Viking: Eyewitness Books Margeson, Susan. Viking. Eyewitness Books Series. New York: Alfred Knopf. 1994.

Reading Level: ages 9-12. This is the best of the children's books about the Vikings that I have found, and should be required reading for adults who belong to medieval reenactment societies who want to have a Viking persona. Not only is the book packed with photographs of tons of artifacts and reconstructed items, the illustrations are photos of live people who have very, very good costuming and equipment. Presents a thorough overview of Viking Age culture, including music, food, social stratification, shipsbuilding, exploration, weapons, and many photos of artifacts.
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Viking: DK Eyewitness Books Margeson, Susan (?). Viking. DK Eyewitness Books Series. DK Children. 2005.

This appears to be a re-issue of Susan Margeson's book above.
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Cover Picture Not Available At This Time Martell, Hazel Mary. Everyday Life in Viking Times. Clues to the Past Series. Franklin Watts. 1994.

Reading level: Ages 9-12. This book focusses on the everday life and culture of people in the Viking Age. Explains what Vikings did for fun, what they wore, and what they ate. Shatters the "Hollywood" image of Vikings as ravening murderers by showing Vikings' domestic life and culture.
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If You Were There: Viking Times Mason, Antony. If You Were There: Viking Times. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1997.

Reading Level: Ages 9-12. I quite like this little book. Aside from the inaccurate women's costumes, it largely uses a well-drawn illustrated style to show many Viking artifacts. A nice feature of this book is the brief timeline in the back showing not only events in Viking lands but relating those to events elsewhere in the world. The book also has a fold-out gameboard in the back cover with a modern "game of life" type boardgame called "Raid, Trade, or Settle". The game is engaging, but the author missed a huge opportunity to teach hnefatafl, an actual Viking Age boardgame.
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Viking Explorers Matthews, Rupert. Viking Explorers. Beginning History Series. New York: Bookwright Press. 1990.

A very brief book that combines photos of actual artifacts with nice artist's reconstructions to discuss the Vikings as seafarers, traders and explorers.
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Usborne Book of Greek and Norse Legends Millard, Anne and Cheryl Evans. Usborne Book of Greek and Norse Legends. E D C Publications. 1987.

Reading level: Young Adult. While the emphasis is on the Greek myths, it is interesting to be able to compare myths of the Greens and the Vikings side-by-side. Both mythologies stem from identical Indo-European roots, but the differences in cultures have made significant changes in the way the gods and the unknown were perceived by these two cultures. As with some other Usborne books on Norse mythology, the illustrations are based solidly in fantasy rather than using or adapting Viking artistic conventions.
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Cover Picture Not Available At This Time Morley, Jacqueline. How Would You Survive As a Viking. How Would You Survive Series. Franklin Watts, Inc. 1995.

Not reviewed.
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Odin's Family: Myths of the Vikings Philip, Neil. Odin's Family: Myths of the Vikings. New York: Scholastic. 1996.

Reading Level: Ages 9-12. Contains re-tellings of the Norse myths taken from the Poetic Edda with 15 stories featuring the stories of Óðinn, Thórr, the giants, and more. I don't think that the storytelling style is as good as that used in Crossley-Holland's Norse Myths, but the illustrations are plentiful and very vivid, which Crossley-Holland's book lacks.
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Norse Gods and Heroes Roberts, Morgan J. Norse Gods and Heroes. Myths of the World Series. New York: Metro Books. 1995.

Reading Level: Young Adult to Adult. Provides an introductory look at the myths of the Viking Age, covering the great gods such as inn, Freyr, rr, Freyja, as well as the other Norse gods and goddesses, the Norse creation myths, Ragnarokr, and more. Illustrated with a combination of photographs of Viking artifacts, and woodcut/etching type illustrations from the 1800's Romantic Revival period which unfortunately mostly depict the Norse gods in Graeco-Roman trappings. Still, there are pictures on pretty much every page or two, and the stories are told in clear language, not unlike Kevin Crossley-Holland's Norse Myths .
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Story of the Vikings Coloring Book Smith, A.G. Story of the Vikings Coloring Book. New York: Dover. 1988. (paperback coloring book - $2.95 new)

Reading Level: 9-12. This coloring book is full of line drawings showing scenes of Viking life, accompanied by a nice paragraph or two explaining each. The text itself is at the age 9-12 level, but the text is so brief that younger readers can probably do just fine with a little help from an older reader. The illustrations are line drawings adapted from Romantic Revival paintings and book illustrations, so the subject matter may be of less interest to younger-than-age-9 children, despite the fact that this is a coloring book, and the scenes ilustrated are mostly of warriors, warfare, and similar subjects that may appeal more to boys than to girls (though I liked them all!) The paper is a light cardstock, suitable for use with crayons, markers, or even paints.
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Step into the Viking World Steele, Philip. Step into the Viking World. Lorenz Books. 1998.

Reading Level: Ages 9-12.
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Raiders of the North Steele, Philip and Fiona MacDonald. Raiders of the North. London: Southwater (Anness Publishing). 2001.

Reading Level: Ages 9-12. Two thousand years ago, the warrior Celts dominated northern and central Europe. Hundreds of years later, a group of fearsome fighters known as the Vikings raided parts of Europe from the North. Thirty step-by-step projects help to bring these two warrior cultures alive in this fact-packed book. Complete with cross-sections, historical maps, and a pictorial timeline, there is plenty to provide extra insight into these societies and highlight its links with the present. Fact boxes provide extra insights.
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Viking Warriors Triggs, Tony. Viking Warriors. Beginning History. Hove, East Sussex: Wayland Publishers Ltd. 1990.

Reading Level: ages 6-10. Aimed at very young readers, this very brief book has a handful of nice drawings depicting Vikings with a few photos of artifacts and archaeological sites. The text on each page is brief, the print is large, and the language is simple. Explains who the Vikings were, discusses Viking ships and raiding, Viking warriors, weapons, and forts, Viking settlements, Viking religion, and Viking games and pasttimes.
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Growing Up in Viking Times Tweddle, Dominic. Growing Up in Viking Times. Growing Up In... Series. Troll Assoc. 1993.

Reading level: Ages 9-12. Explores Viking culture, their daily life, farming and farm life, children's lives and education, religion and mythology, shipbuilding and exploration.
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The Invaders Windrow, Martin, H.R. Loyn, Jane Sheard, et al. The Invaders. The Living Past Series. New York: Arco Publishing. 1981.

Reading level: Young Adult. An overview of the history of the Migration Age. Discusses the Roman Empire and its legions, the great migrations, the Fall of the Western Empire, the Huns, the Fall of Roman Britain, the Goths, the myth of the "Dark Ages", the Franks and Charlemagne, the migrations of the Norse, Viking settlements and raids, Byzantium, Islam, from Norseman to Norman, the Norman Conquest, and the Crusades. Ilustrated using a micture of drawings and artifact photos. An excellent overview of a compex time in European history.
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Cover Picture Not Available At This Time Wingate, Philippa, Anne Millard, Gerald Wood and James Chisholm. The Viking World. Usborne Illustrated World History. London: Usborne. 1994.

Not Reviewed. Reading level: Young Adult. An overview of Viking life, culture, mythology and history.
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Elfwyn's Saga Wisniewski, David. Elfwyn's Saga. New York: HarperCollins. 1990.

Reading Level: Ages 4-8. I would so love to be able to recommend this book. This little book is an original story which unfortunately misses the boat on some important areas. The heroine, Elfwyn, has a nice Anglo-Saxon name, which would be fine if she were not an Icelander. The overall thrust of the tale is an explanation of the aurora borealis, which actually may not have been visible during the viking Age in Iceland. The story tells how the Hidden Folk (huldufolk, landvættir) safely guide one ship of settlers to safe harbor, but turn away an evil Viking, Gorm the Grim, intent on raiding and slaughter. The thwarted raider curses the settlers, and the chieftain Anlaf's daughter Elfwyn is born blind as a result. Later, the evil Gorm gives Anlaf an enchanted crystal, in which the settlers each see themselves as they most long to be, falling under the thrall of the spell. Elfwyn, unenchanted because of her blindness, mounts her pony and shatters the crystal. The splinters, however, continuing the malign magic, pursue her until finally shattering. The curse is broken, the dust from the broken crystal becomes the aurora, and everyone lives happily ever after. It's a great little story, and I whole-heartedly endorse it as such, just not as a good reflection of early Viking iceland and its beliefs.
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The Viking News Wright, Rachel. The Viking News. History News Series. Cambridge: Candlewick Press. 2001.

Reading Level: Ages 9-12. This little book (32 pages) is presented in newspaper format with clever and funny little stories that illustrate the life and tiomes of the Viking Age in an engaging and entertaining manner. Full of corny jokes and colorful illustrations that kids will love.
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Audio Book Icon AUDIO BOOKS

Giant's Cauldron: Viking Myths of Adventure/Cassette Giant's Cauldron: Viking Myths of Adventure/Cassette. The Odds Bodkin Storytelling Library. 1993.

Not yet reviewed. Features Thor Against the Frost Giants and The Mead of Poetry.
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