Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 04 Sep 2023

Kings and Queens: Alfred the Great to King Charles III and Everyone In-Between by Marcia Williams

Do you struggle to convince your children or grandchildren that history is a school subject that is not just important but can be fun too? Do they roll their eyes in disbelief as you wax lyrical about anything that happened ‘before they were born’? Do you wish someone would come along and help make the subject live and speak to them in ways they understand?

Well, here’s a potential solution: go and have a look at the wonderful back catalogue of Marcia Williams. With skill and humour she uses an almost comic-book style to bring all manner of historical periods and cultural events to life, mixing fact and humour to supplement her striking illustrative skills.

Her latest book, Kings and Queens: Alfred the Great to King Charles III and Everyone In-Between, is a chronological journey through the UK’s monarchs and packs its historical facts cunningly and entertainingly on every page. The book – like many of her other publications – is a large format that allows her illustrative skills full range and makes each page a feast.

How I wish that books like this existed when I was of school age. Back in the distant mists of time when I was a schoolboy, I couldn’t wait to give up studying history. I thought it was a dry, dead subject that had no significance for me – a frame of mind that changed radically as I grew older but, by then, the damage had been done and I have always felt I have been running to catch up. One particular issue that I’ve never really been able to get to grips with is the history of British kings and queens -  and the fact that as an adult I’ve become a staunch Republican hasn’t helped. 

Even so, I recognise that the institution of monarchy has been a key one in shaping the Britain I live in today and so having a better grasp of how power passed from one monarch to the next is something I need to have. Enter Marcia Williams and her delightful new book: a boon to adults as well as children.

Williams starts right at the beginning with Alfred the Great, when the idea of a unified ‘king’ emerged from what had previously been a collection of feuding tribal chiefs. We are led, in comic strip style, from one period to the next by a series of numbers snaking around the pages on a dragon’s tale. Our commentator on all things royal is Caw the Royal Raven who introduces us to the Royal Timeline and scoots along the dragon’s tail supplementing the main frames with additional facts and useful bits and pieces.

Williams tells us the good, the bad and the ugly in bite-sized chunks and we don’t linger long anywhere – so there’s plenty to follow up on. In schools this can be used to develop discussions or topics for further research and, at home, it can be the start of time spent on a deeper exploration of the moments in history that capture the imagination.

This visual extravaganza is available now from Walker Books and can be obtained from your local independent bookshop – who will be happy to order it for you if they don’t have a copy on the shelf.


Terry Potter

Sept 2023