The Joy of Discarded History Books

I hate a love-hate relationship with the public library.

I love going to the library. Whenever I move to a new location, the public library is the first place I visit after the grocery store and the bank. The quiet immensity of any public library fills me with a sense of wonder.

But I also have trouble whenever I enter a public library because inevitably they have a discarded-book-sale section. And despite my best efforts to the contrary, I am inexplicably pulled toward said book-sale section. I find my eyes and fingers scanning the titles–even as my brain is saying, “You DO NOT have any room in your house for more books!”

Guess which one wins?

Actually, some of the best books in our house have been discarded by the library. Often these discards are for seemingly minute reasons–like the pages are getting a little worn where people turn them at the spine so they “might” rip soon. Seriously? THAT’S what merits discard status?

But the library’s loss is my gain. Well . . . gain for awesome books on my shelves. Not so much gain for my bank account.

Nevertheless, here are a few of my favorite history books that we’ve acquired over the years:

I can’t recommend these books highly enough! If you aren’t lucky enough to find them on your library’s discard shelf any time soon, Amazon and Ebay may also be able to help you out!

Steve Noon Anne MillordA Street through Time (by Anne Millord and Steve Noon)

Imagine–each spread in this oversize book is the same street during a different time period in history. The richly detailed illustrations are combined with fun facts that frame the pictures.

On top of that, you have mini-stories that play out with pieces of the illustrations from one time period to the next. (For example, the Roman statue proudly displayed inside a house during the Roman time period is dredged from the river during the Victorian era and becomes an antique for sale on the modern-day page.)

Finally, there is a Where’s Waldo element that adds another layer of fun.

I can’t tell you how many HOURS my kids have spent pouring over this book. It was worth every penny (all one hundred of them) that I spent!

marting handfordWhere’s Waldo Now? (by Martin Handford)

Speaking of Where’s Waldo, here’s another great book. Where’s Waldo Now? has all the delightful features that you would expect in any Where’s Waldo book, but this book travels through time. As my kids searched for Waldo and the numerous other objects and people, I could hear them reciting facts about history that we’ve covered over the last few years.

Can you LEARN history from this book? Probably not. Is it a really fun way to REMEMBER what you’ve learned? Definitely!

Through Time: Beijing (by Richard Platt and Manuela Cappon)

This book travels from ancient through modern China. Unlike the “The Street through Time” above, it doesn’t stay stationary however. So on one spread you’re looking at an ancient farm, on the next you’re inside the Forbidden City.

It’s the illustrations, once again, that set this book apart. My kids and I love to just look at them over and over again. There is so much detail . . . so many stories to imagine on each spread.

My Place (by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins)

Staying with “follow a place through history” theme, this classic book published over twenty years ago, details a plot of land in Australia as it changes over time.

What makes this book unique and particularly appealing is that it starts in the present day and works backwards for 200 years. On each spread, the text is written from the viewpoint of a child living during a certain era. The illustration is a map of the same area drawn from the child’s viewpoint and focusing on the things that are important in that child’s life.

It’s delightful to discover the continuity between the eras, even as the specific use of the land changes over time.

Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess (by Richard Platt and Christ Riddell)

The last book digresses from the “picture book detailing different eras.” “Castle Diary” is a short, historical fiction read written in diary format. It details the life of one Tobias Burgess, a page living in thirteenth-century England. The humor is simple and fun. The history lessons are woven throughout the text.

Both Pepper (11) and Lima Bean (9) have loved it.

So . . . do you have a favorite history book that you have rescued from the library discard pile? Or that you rescued from languishing on a bookstore’s shelf . . . or Amazon’s massive warehouse? I’d love to hear about them.

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