Top 25 Ancient History Resources

AH_Fotor_Collage_FotorTop 25 Ancient History Resources

“Ancient History” is primarily concerned with the world during biblical times and the early church. When the children of Israel were slaving away for Pharaoh, what might Egypt have looked like then? When Paul was traveling on his missionary journeys across the Roman Empire, what was the Roman Empire like?

While every public library has scores of titles related to Ancient History, the ones listed below are essential to a well-rounded exploration of this time period, especially for Christians. Worth seeking out, even if you must buy them, the resources below target ages 6-12 and were chosen for their excellence (compared with similar works), current availability, overall contribution to the study of Ancient History, and their “family friendly” nature. When taken as a whole, the list provides balance in reading levels and tone. When multiple titles are listed for a topic or an author, choose what best meets your family’s needs and interests.

Biblical Literature/History

A grasp of Biblical history is vital! In addition to a good story Bible (such as The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos, The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Read Aloud Bible Stories by Ella K. Lindvall and H. Kent Pucket, or a children’s Bible), we recommend the following resources as especially worth seeking out.

  • The True Story of Noah’s Ark by Tom Dooley and illustrated by Bill Looney (note: there is much “it might have happened like this” language that may be hard for young children to separate from the brief biblical account; other excellent picture book titles for young children include Peter Spier’s Noah’s Ark and Jerry Pinkney’s Noah’s Ark)
  • Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps, and Timelines by Rose Publishing (outstanding visual reference for timelines, biblical events, and maps)

Traditional Literature/Mythology

Families differ on their approaches to mythology; below you will find family friendly versions of famous myths as well as fables and a quick-reference guide to mythology. Choose what best fits your family’s approach.

  • In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton and ill. by Barry Moser
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Gilgamesh Trilogy by Ludmila Zeman (3 picture books highlighting the key portions of the Gilgamesh epic)
  • Egyptian Mythology: Tales of Ancient Egypt by Roger Lancelyn Green 
  • Roman Fables: Aesop’s Fables (look for collections illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Arthur Rackham, Milo Winter and the Dover Coloring Book)
  • Greek Mythology: D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths (see also D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths)
  • Greek Legends: The Children’s Homer by Padraic Colum (a read aloud that merges elements from The Odyssey and The Illiad)
  • Persian Legends: 1001 Arabian Nights (Ill. Jr. Library edition or another one suitable for your family)
  • Indian Fables: Tales from Ancient India by Marcia Williams (much like Aesop’s fables)
  • Quick Reference (global mythology): The New York Public Library Amazing Mythology by Brendan January. (excellent, especially for parents, and fitting for families who do not wish to read many of the original myths about other gods/goddesses)

General Ancient History and Civilizations

Note that many of these are from secular viewpoints; certain portions will need some clarification, especially for younger children

  • Pyramid and City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction by David Macaulay
  • Modern Rhymes About Ancient Times (Egypt, Greece, Rome) by Susan Altman
  • The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond by Patrick Dillon and Stephen Beisty (Humanistic explanations of early history, but an outstanding visual reference nonetheless and global in scope)
  • Story of the World, vol. 1 by Susan Wise Bauer
  • Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster. Accessible prose and lots of pictures begin with the life of Augustus and move to look at the entire world during the same time period.  Note: uses a humanistic view of Jesus (he was a great teacher, etc.).
  • Famous Men of Greece and Famous Men of Rome by John Haaren (Greenleaf History Series) (these titles include mythology)
  • Asterix the Gladiator graphic novel series by de Goscinny (humorous, but a good set-up of characters and issues in Gaul and Rome during the time of Julius Caesar)

Biographies of Notable Ancient Peoples

Biographies are outstanding ways to gain a personal feel for what life was like in a given time period. 

  • Picture Book Biographies: secular biographies by Diane Stanley (Cleopatra, Alexander the Great) and church history biographies by Sinclair Ferguson (Polycarp, Iranaeus, and Ignatius) and Simonetta Carr (Augustine, Athanasius)
  • Chapter book biographiesArchimedes and the Door of Science, Herodotus and the Road to History, and Galen and the Gateway to Medicine by Jeanne Benedict
  • Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare; for younger children, see Tales from Shakespeare by Marcia Williams

Historical Fiction Set in the Ancient World

Historical fiction helps “humanize” history and place readers in the time period. Many more titles than those below exist, but the ones below strike an appropriate balance of interest, writing skill, and variety.

  • Egypt: Mara, Daughter of the Nile and The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
  • Egypt: The Cat of Bubastes by G. A. Henty; see also The Young Carthaginian (Hannibal)
  • Rome: Detectives in Togas series by Henry Winterfeld
  • Rome (time of Christ): The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

cover images taken from amazon

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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  1. Hannah Hall on September 8, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    This is a fabulous list! Thanks for compiling.

    I’m particularly intrigued by The True Story of Noah’s Ark. It’s been interesting to me, since becoming a parent and reading many a Noah’s ark re-telling, that the authors will often change some rather important details of the Noah’s Ark tale.

    Most notably, several go out of their way to write that Noah closed the door to the ark. Genesis 7:16 specifically states the God closed the door. I was so disappointed to re-read Spier’s “Noah’s Ark” recently- a book I loved as a child- and find that Spier was guilty of changing this detail as well. My children have a board book–whose author I can’t recall- that does the same thing.

    I’m surprised (and saddened) by this every time I see it. As book reviewers, do you have any thoughts on this?

  2. Betsy on September 16, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    Great question/thoughts, Hannah! That is one of my pet peeves, too, with Noah’s Ark versions. The Pinkney version clearly mentions that God closes the door as does the True Story. Spier’s version is wordless (save for a poem at the beginning) so I usually make a point of mentioning it when I read that version. When I look at Noah’s Ark retellings, I have some things in mind that can apply to other biblical story retellings: is God the hero? Is the majesty and scope of the original story presented in a way that communicates just that? In the Noah’s Ark versions we listed above, all show the scope of God’s judgment, the immense length of time Noah was in the ark (one of the things Spier really does well), and the marvelous reminder of full redemption in the rainbow and exiting from the ark (don’t miss Pinkney’s endpapers!).

    In a story Bible, I look for things like fabricating words that are supposed to be from the Lord, putting emotions into the story’s characters that aren’t already clearly portrayed in the text, including even the scary stories (like the sacrifice of Isaac or the Passover), and things like that.

    Is that similar to your own approach?

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