World History Reading List
Middle Ages, AD 400 – 1200
Religion in medieval times was very different than today. Create a history lesson on the spiritual devotion and dedication of the middle ages with books on the major saints and monks.
Several of the reading recommendations listed below are simple enough to appeal to all elementary ages. As an adult, I loved them, too, so be sure to share these with older students as well!
Monks & Monasteries – General Topics
Brother William’s Year: A Monk at Westminster Abbey
by Jan Pancheri, illus. Jan Pancheri. Francis Lincoln, 2009.E-UE
Although set in 1383 (slightly later than our target Middle Ages years for this category), Brother William’s Year gives a fun look at life of a St. Benedictine monk in a monastery in the Middle Ages. Each month brings different responsibilities, and all of it is fascinating. The final 2 pages gives even more information in short bits, including how and when the monastic life came to an end.
The Hidden Treasure of Glaston
by Eleanore M. Jewett, illus. by Frederick T. Chapman. The Viking Press, 1946. UE+
Hugh must live in the monastery due to a family tragedy, and soon meets Dickon, another boy who lives there as well. Dickon has found part of a secret treasure and includes Hugh in solving the treasure’s mystery and finding the missing pieces to it. This adventure story is set in medieval England in the uncertain times of King Henry’s feud with Thomas a Becket and gives a glimpse at monasteries, illumination, monks, and even the legends and traditions of King Arthur.
Monks & Monasteries – Scribes & Illumination
Brother Hugo and the Bear by Katy Beebe, illus. S.D. Schindler. E-UE
Kids will love this amusing tale of an illunimated manuscript that gets devoured by a bear. Poor Brother Hugo has to replace the manuscript, and keep it away from the hungry bear with an appetite for his work. Pages are decorated with illumination-like letters as well as the charming illustrations.
Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson, illus. Kathryn Hewitt. Getty Publications, 1999. U-UE
Follow Marguerite as she collects animal skins, goose feathers, and various plants and stones for dyes to help her book-illustrator father complete a prayer book. What an entertaining way to learn about the art of illumination!
c. 270-342: St. Nicholas
Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer, illus. Chris Ellison. Concordia. K-E
Beautiful picture book explaining the kind and gentle historical figure behind Santa Claus.
39?-461: St. Patrick
Saint Patrick by Anne Tombert, ill. Michael Garland. Boyds Mills Press, 1998. E-UE
Story is based on one of St. Patrick’s letters. Artwork is by an award-winning illustrator.
St. Patrick’s Day by Joyce K. Kessel, illus. Cathy Gilchrist. Carolrhoda Books, 1982. K-E
Told simply, but includes more history than most on this level. Black & white sketch illustrations.
The Story of Saint Patrick by James A. Janda.
484-577: St. Brendan
521-597: Columcille (or Columba)
Across A Dark & Wild Sea by Don Brown, illus. Roaring Brook Press, 2002. E-UE+
Fascinating picture book about a monk who made a huge impact in his native Ireland during the Dark Ages, and in Scotland as well. Great story; provides insight into the culture. Recommended.
The Man Who Loved Books by Jean Fritz, illus. by Trina S. Hyman. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1981. E-UE+
Two-color illustrations accompany the story of Columba’s entire life, and the telling is based on legend. Fascinating.
597, landed at Kent: St. Augustine
Augustine Came to Kent (Living History Library) by Barbara Willard.
1182-1226: St Francis of Assisi
Francis: The Poor Man of Assisi by Tomie de Paola. Holiday House, 1982. E-UE+
Depicts St. Francis’ life of poverty in devotion to God. Dramatizes him as a worker of miracles, to the point that he supernaturally receives Christ’s crucifixion wounds in his hands, feet, & sides.
The Road to Damietta by Scott O’Dell. JH-HS