Did you ever notice that a lot of children’s books were a better quality in decades past than now it seems? There seems to be a pattern; if you look at a children’s book now vs back then, it seems like all of the illustrations are a lower quality as well as the text. Compared side by side, many non-fiction children’s books have more dumbed down text than before. Also, the illustrations now are either cheap cartoon characters or real pictures but before they were nicely hand drawn and colored in in detail.
What got me observing this is I found this neat book in a yard sale called “The Golden History Of The World”. It dates to 1955 and is from the Golden Books company. It’s reasonably for elementary school aged children and maybe middle school. The book is richly illustrated and in great detail. Each page has a very detailed scene and little scenes in the margins. The art style is unique and reflects the culture being described. Even the table of contents have little illustrations!
However, the most important thing I’ve observed from this book is it’s historical content. The information is surprisingly detailed for a book for that age group and dives in to more specific things in history. The writing style is also more sophisticated than in many children’s books today, with more complex sentence structure and vocabulary. Many modern children’s history books for more casual reading do not dive into each topic in such detail as this book does. For example, They go through the Paleolithic, the Neolithic and how communities became more advanced up to present day (as of 1955!) In between they cover topics such as Early Christianity, the Islamic world, Late antiquity, the Reformation etc… Honestly, this book has more text book-level information, yet presents it in a casual way.
Another thing I’ve observed is that it it presents the information in an unbiased way. Many textbooks today often have a slant toward one ideology or another. The Golden History Of The World makes no effort to be “politically correct” and skip over undesirable information or slant things on one side or the other. A major example is how they talk about religion. They cover various religions such as Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. A whole page is dedicated to the Islamic world around the time of Muhammad! Many children’s books today skirt around religion, as to not offend anyone and only mention it briefly if need be, yet this book talks about each in a balanced, yet frank way. (Not everything mentioned about Christianity is flattering to say the least! They even drew Muhammad in the book!)
Overall, “The Golden History Of The World” is a good book for it’s historical information and itself as an artifact! It shows how children’s books have changed over the years in terms of quality. The amount of detail that went into the book is astounding! I’m honestly surprised too that it presented WWI and WW2 in such an unbiased way, after all, it only happened 10 years before! I wish they would publish a second edition with all of the things they missed since 1955! Tons more history happened since then!