Children's Books on the "Vikings ": An Annotated Bibliography

We have received a number of requests for information for younger people, or beginning re-creationists, about the Vikings, and since Patsy was a public library cataloger, we have easy access to a great deal of what is currently available IN CHILDREN'S BOOKS.

The annotations are based on our personal evaluations of the material in books we have inspected for the purpose of constructing this list . . . Illustrations are noted as being period or modern; error rates are estimated based on ca. 25 years of private research. For your information, some of our benchmark errors include, but are not limited to: horned helmets; use of the old (1948) Trelleborg hall reconstruction (thoroughly discredited, the reconstruction long since re-done more correctly); over-use of modern reconstructions (many seem to incorporate questionable elements); Victorianisms; anachronisms; "Norse life was full of dirt and muck"; questionable Norse costume; showing the Elder Futhark instead of, or among, actual Viking-period runic alphabets . . . Books on the Viking Age are rarely clearly accurate or inaccurate, so we have had to develop a minimum standard by feel. I (Gary) often find these books terribly upsetting.

As time allows, we may expand the coverage of the list. We welcome your comments and additional nominations for the list. Please try to provide as much information about additional titles as you can. Information is usually available on the back side of the title page.

Bailey, Linda and Bill Slavin illustrator. Adventures with the Vikings (Good Times Travel Agency (SERIES)) Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2001. (ISBN 1-55074-542-5, 1-55074-544-1 pbk.)

For the most part it's not too bad. A number of small problems with the illustrations: straight-ended ship chests with rope handles, longships drawn up on the shore with their dragon heads still in place, women's overdress drawn as conventional aprons although the text says "shorter overdress", warp-weighted loom is too small overall and weaver is seated; some cartoon overstatements, i.e. the berserker. DID get the right runic alphabet. Historical accuracy vetted by Dr Jesse Byock of UCLA. Mild recommendation.

Berger, Melvin and Gilda. The Real Vikings: Craftsmen, Traders and Fearsome Raiders. Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2003. (ISBN 0-7922-5132-6)

Pretty good. One or two minor quibbles, but lots of excellent photos and illustrations (except for the costuming). The text is simple but remarkably accurate. This may very well be one of the best children's books on the subject. Very recommended.

Civardi, Ann and James Graham-Campbell. The Time Traveller Book of Viking Raiders. Tulsa, Okla.: Hayes-Usborne, 1977. (ISBN 0-86020-085-X)

Interesting work. Some dated items, some straight errors in details, but an ambitious and accessible attempt at a comprehensive overview of Norse life in the Viking Age. Recommended.

Clarke, Helen. Vikings (The Civilization Library). New York: Gloucester, 1979. (ISBN 0-531-03412-7 LC 79-12583)

A difficult book to characterize. Some inaccuracies, but some interesting things as well. Unfortunately low on concrete items. Regretfully not recommended.

Deary, Terry. The Vicious Vikings (Horrible Histories (SERIES)) New York: Scholastic, 1997, c1994. (ISBN 0-590-49849-5)

The author is a retired History teacher (British). Writing is entertaining in style, if you don't know much about the accuracy of what he's saying. The section on names is fun and accurate. UNFORTUNATELY, he goes for the laugh to the exclusion of facts; if he can't find a real "vicious viking" moment, he'll make something up or pull from VERY obscure corners, or distort something real. Timeline has several small over-simplification errors. He's mushed up the runic alphabet, picking and choosing from different alphabets of different periods so he can get letters to correspond to all modern English letters (Q, X, etc.). The whole section about the Vikings inventing new ways for people to die is VERY iffy. He makes a lot of small off-hand comments the source of which are open to question. There a LOT of things Gary has never heard of, from anywhere. No documentation of any sort noted. This book is apparently the source of the alleged Viking children's game of "kingey bats", which we have never heard of before and can find no corroborating evidence for. Author has not responded to queries. This sounds like a lot of grumping by now, but it's from Oxford UP, and amusingly written. Gary's final verdict -- might be interesting to take this book and try to document the bits so they fall into context! Basically untrustworthy.

Dobson, Mary. Vile Vikings (Smelly Old History (SERIES)) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. (ISBN 0-19-910494-8)

"Scratch 'n' sniff your way through the past" -- the gimmick of this series, but it doesn't work well, so to evaluate the written content... Very sensational cartoon-y illustration style. Extreme emphasis on the "smelly" aspects, over-all smart-aleck "look at the smelly goons" attitude. No documentation of any sort noted. Obviously "Oxford University Press" doesn't mean anything as far as accuracy. No depth. Again, a very entertaining read for the uninformed, but undependable for real information. Not recommended.

Editors of Time-Life Books. Vikings: Raiders from the North (Lost Civilizations (SERIES)). Alexandria, Virg.: Time-Life Books, 1993. (ISBN 0-8094-9895-2 LC 93-14028)

This is definitely intended for older readers. Young adults perhaps. Very wordy. Many good quality photographs of artifacts and quality interweaving of archaeology and literary sources. Strongly recommended.

Gallagher, Jim. The Vking Explorers (SERIES Exxplorers of New Worlds). Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House Publishers, 2001. (ISBN 0-7910-6165-5 pbk.)

This is mostly text, and a bit too dense for younger readers. Few and mostly bad illustrations. The text has out of date material, inaccuracies, and outright errors. Probably not as bad as I make it sound, but I cannot recommend it.

Grant, Neil. Eric the Red (What's Their Story (SERIES)) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. (ISBN 0-19-521431-5)

Doesn't seem too bad, considering the limited scope. Illustration style is sketchy and some of the costuming choices are odd (even if the illustrator, Victor Ambrus, is one of Chimene's long-time favorites). But overall quite reasonable. Moderate recommendation.

Grant, Neil. The Vikings : investigate and understand the Viking Age (Spotlight (SERIES)) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. (ISBN 0-19-521393-9)

Costume is out of date. The strips of artifacts across the bottom of the pages seem pretty good (artifacts are all drawn (rather than photos), but very realistic style, and pretty accurate -- Sutton Hoo helmet is an oops), but the scenes above are often off (why did they bury a MAN in the Oseberg ship? straight-sided seachest with metal-ring handles and no lid in sight). Hedeby interior scene has been rotated oddly. Mostly pretty good, inaccuracies are small and not the majority of the content. Correct runes!, wrong harp. On the whole, it's very good. Recommended.

Guy, John and Dr. Richard Hall. Viking Life. (Irvine, CA): Saddleback Publishing, 2006. (ISBN 1-59905-057-9)

If you avoid the costuming, the occasional Victorian illustration and rare oddities, this is not a bad book. Mildly recommended.

Hicks, Peter. Technology in the time of the Vikings (Technology in the Time Of (SERIES)) Austin, Tex: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1998. (ISBN 0-8172-4880-3)

Clear drawings and mostly accurate artifact photos (in the opening section on cooking, the first photo shows cast iron pots, but a couple of pages later there's a good clear photo of a Norse riveted cauldron). Includes numerous craft projects for the reader, of varying quality, for example, doesn't say the viking bread recipe was made up. We have questions about a few things: the ironsmith's smelting furnace, for example. Certainly a unique way to look at a civilization (we approve!) No documentation of any sort noted. Mild recommendation.

Hinds, Kathryn. The Vikings (Cultures of the Past (SERIES))New York, Marshall Cavendish, 1998. (ISBN 0-7614-0271-3)

For teens, mostly text, clear photos throughout. Not as much on material culture, more on social and historical. "A world of honor and loyalty", "law and order" -- that sounds more like it! Extensive "further reading". No documentation of any sort noted. Gary likes this one, "looks pretty good." Recommended.

Langley, Andrew. You Wouldn't Want to Be a Viking Explorer! (You Wouldn't Want To Be (SERIES))New York, Franklin Watts, 2001. (ISBN 0-531-14599-9 ; 0-531-16205-2 pbk.)

Allegedly "humorous"-style illustration, cartoon-y, has seriously reduced accuracy. MANY errors of material culture (not-Norse chests, rope handles on buckets, saying huckleberry and showing blueberry, etc., etc.). Text seems reasonable, but illustrations overwhelm it. Not Recommended.

Lassieur, Allison. Vikings (Edge Books, Warriors of History (SERIES)). Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2007. (ISBN 0-7368-6434-2)

The illustrations are middling. Some ill chosen Victorians. The text is atrocious! Dumbed down, supposedly 4th-6th grade reading level, and highly inaccurate. Things like honour and cultural definitions, basic history, weapons and armour errors - basically the entire text. NOT RECOMMENDED!

Margeson, Susan M.. Viking (Eyewitness books). New York: Knopf, 1994. (ISBN 0-679-86002-9 LC 93-32593)

Numerous good quality, color photographs of period artefacts are a strong point. Unfortunately, a few too many Victorian images are scattered throughout; a few dispell errors, others compound them. Photos of costume reconstructions, while interesting, seem to incorporate a number of questionable details. Big spread on the inaccurate Trelleborg reconstruction. Some of the research appears to be rather shallow. On the other hand, there are some very good things in this book too. Uses correct futhark, has some very good pictures of infrequently published items, a good choice of photos and the text attempts to ameliorate some of the other inaccuracies. Middling recommendation.

Martell, Hazel Mary. Food & Feasts with the Vikings (Food & feasts (SERIES)). New York: New Discovery Books, 1995. (ISBN 0-02-726317-7 LC 94-5429)

Series premise is laudable, but execution, in this case, is lacking. Some details are iffy; numerous omissions of commonly available information. Inclusion of scenes from the Jorvik Center are inappropriate, as is over-use of data from the Jorvik site, which, while it was occupied by the Norse, was still in England. Occasionally throwing in photos of non-Viking items without labeling them correctly, for instance, pictures of the Gallehus horns (ca. 500 AD) as examples of drinking horns and a 19th C. cast iron cauldron labeled as "... from a Viking farm in Iceland". The recipes are questionable. Generally, we've seen much better material; unfortunately not in a children's format.

Martell, Hazel Mary. The Vikings (Worlds of the Past (SERIES)). New York: New Discovery Books, 1991. (ISBN 0-02-762427-7 LC 91-507)

Gets the runes correct, but not period national borders on map. Very odd statements about costume. Jorvik pictures again (Anglo-Saxons labeled as Norse). Again, the Gallehus horns, and 19th C cast iron kettles, labeled as Viking period. About the first third of the book is full of nonsense (many mistakes repeated as in Food and feasts title above), the rest seems quite reasonable. Mostly pretty good.

Martell, Hazel Mary. The Vikings and Jorvik (Hidden Worlds (SERIES)). New York: Dillon Press, 1993. (ISBN 0-87518-541-X LC 92-25215)

A simplified version of the excavation at Jorvik. The current over emphasis on the "Viking" nature of York is not too heavy handed here. Recommended.

McDonald, Fiona and Mark Bergin. A Viking Town (Inside Story (SERIES)). New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1995. (ISBN 0-87226-382-7 LC 95-1845)

The female costuming defies physics, demonstrating why this interpretation is wrong. All of the costuming has problems. I like the scene laying the causeway at Hedeby. Unfortunately there are many (and unnecessary) errors. Not recommended.

Morley, Jacqueline; illust. Mark Bergin. First Facts about the Vikings (First Facts (SERIES)). New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1996. (ISBN 0-87226-497-1 LC 96-12301)

These are the same illustrations as A Viking Town (Inside Story). above. I strongly dislike the text. Not recommended.

Mulvihill, Margaret. Viking Longboats (History highlights (SERIES)). New York: Gloucester Press, 1989. (ISBN 0-531-17168-X LC 89-31565)

This book has a number of problems. Almost everyone looks like they need a barber, scruffy hair and beards. The ship construction has a number of problems. Some of the costume interpretations are unique or dated. Over simplified text. Miscellaneous other inaccuracies. However, there are a few interesting elements as well.

Odjik, Pamela. The Vikings (The ancient world (SERIES)) South Melbourne: Silver Burdett Press, 1989. (ISBN 0-382-09893-5)

Pictures mostly look good. Gary finds the quality of the text uneven -- some OK, other parts heavily (modern) Icelandic-influenced. Some chronology of artifacts and norse vocabulary is very off. Runic is ALL messed up -- post-viking runes from the Orkneys on one page, Old Germanic on clay on the facing page (there are NO Viking period runes on clay). Not recommended

Place, Robin. The Vikings (Modern Knowledge Library). New York: Warwick Press, 1980. (ISBN 0-531-09170-8 LC 80-50038)

Lots of pictures of artifacts. Interspersed are paintings, some of which are better than usual but still lacking. Sections of the text have numerous out of period references and errors. Not recommended.

Place, Robin. The Vikings: Fact and Fiction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985. (ISBN 0-521-30855-0)

This book looks wonderful at first sight. However, if you are familiar with the excavation and the Viking Age, you immediately begin to find problems. Jorvik (which the book is about) may have been dominated by the Norse at this time but it was hardly an exclusively Norse town. This appears to be a marketing ploy on the part of the tourist industry. The book includes items from other sources that are not labelled, drawings that have been corrupted, an inaccurate runic script and the same hokey (and in my opinion inaccurate) approach used by the Jorvik Viking Centre's tourist ride. Not recommended.

Pluckrose, Henry, "consultant editor". Vikings (Small world (SERIES)) New York: Gloucester Press, 1982. (ISBN 0-531-03457-7)

Very simple text, some quite out-dated notions. Realistic paintings for illustrations (not too pretty). Has a few too many problems for what little is in it. No documentation of any sort noted. Not recommended.

Richard, Terence. The Vikings (First history (SERIES)) Vero Beach, Fla.: Rourke Enterprises, 1986. (ISBN 0-86592-161-X)

Very elementary text, first or 2d grade? Too bad the illustrations aren't as good as the text. Oy! heads at both ends of the dragon-ships! Coppergate helmet ID'd as Viking. No documentation of any sort noted. Mild recommendation, for its age.

Richardson, Hazel. Life of the Ancient Vikings (SERIES Peoples of the Ancient World). New York: Crabtree Publ. Co., 2005. (ISBN 0-7787-2044-6)

I think they intended well, but didn't follow through. Many irritating inaccuracies which suddenly pop out of good material. Victorianisms, bad costumes, old discredited reconstructions, etc. Regrettably not recommended.

Schachner, Judith Byron. Yo, Vikings. New York: Dutton Chidren's Books, 2002. (ISBN 0-525-46889-7)

I'm not sure I should really put this here. It isn't so much about the Vikings as about a child's view of the matter. I think in this instance we will forgive the horned helmets. Very entertaining.

Schomp, Virginia. The Vikings (People of the Ancient World (SERIES). New York: Franklin Watts (Scholastic), 2005. (ISBN 0-531-12382-0)

The text looks fair. I particularly like the little blocks dispelling various urban legends about the Vikings. The illustrations are a real mixed bag. It looks like the editors came along after the author finished and said, "It doesn't have enough pictures!" and added numerous Victorian illustrations in direct conflict with the text and portraits by their favorite modern folk artist which are totally inappropriate. Most of the other illustrations are good although there's a picture of the discredited Trelleborg reconstruction, a picture of Lindesfarne Castle (Victorian) implying that it is Lindesfarne Abbey, and other minor quibbles. Recommended with reservations.

Shuter, Jane. Life on a Viking Ship (Picture of the Past (SERIES)). Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2005. (ISBN 1-4034-6441-3, 1-4034-6448-0 pbk)

A simple but good text. The illustrations are good although they include coloured Trykare illustrations which I dislike for the inaccurate costuming. Recommended.

Speed, Peter. Harald Hardrada and the Vikings (Life in the time of). Austin, Texas: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1993. (ISBN 0-8114-3353-6 LC 92-5818)

The text is intended for an older audience. Excessive dependence on saga material introduces anachronisms and ignores archaeology. The drawings are interesting, but hardly accurate. Not recommended.

Trigg, Tony D. Viking Warriors. (Beginning History (SERIES)) New York: Bookwright Press, 1990. (ISBN 0-531-18356-4)

Perpetuates very old ideas -- EXTREMELY dated. Forge drawn by someone who knows nothing about smithing; "Viking" helmet is from Vendel period; no excuse for the discredited hall reconstuction in the Viking fort illustration by 1990. Most of the illustrations aren't worth diddly, & text is very basic. Not recommended.

Tweddle, Dominic. Growing up in Viking times. (Growing up in (Series)) [US]: Troll Associates, 1994. (ISBN 0-8617-2725-2 LC 91-41396)

He draws pretty pictures, but the drawings are pretty fanciful particularly as far as personal appearance goes and some other details. The text contains a number of questionable statements. Not recommended.

Weintraub, Eileen. Vikings: Raiders and Explorers (Way of the Warrior (SERIES)). New York: Children's Press (Scholastic), 2005. (ISBN 0-516-25118-X, 0-516-25087-6 pbk)

This is 3rd to 4th grade reading level. This may be one of the worst pieces of garbage we have ever seen. The illustrations are overwhelmingly Victorian and the worst of those. The covers Wagnerian illustration tells it all. (Hellboy wearing bad women's jewelry!) Definitely NOT RECOMMENDED.

Wright, Rachel. The Viking News (The News (SERIES))Cambridge MA, Candlewick Press, 1998. (ISBN 0-7636-0450-X)

Tabloid-style presentation looks like it's going to be pretty bad, but turns out a bit sensational but generally accurate. Has the right runes. Multiple illustration styles, one noticeably more accurate than others. Good Thingvellir landscape. Oseberg ship burial has numerous omissions; costuming is odd. On the whole, Recommended.

Wright, Rachel. Vikings: Facts, Things to Make, Activities. (Craft Topics (Series)) New York: Franklin Watts, 1992. (ISBN 0-531-14210-8 LC 92-4618)

Seems reasonable. One or two minor questionable items. The crafts are simplified to an 8 to 10 year old level. Recommended.

Copyright © 1998, 2007 Gary Walker & Patricia Dunham

Last updated 8/8/07.

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