“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.
**see printable list for just titles and authors, no annotations
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)
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 biographies: Archimedes 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
See our Ancient History Resources Printable List for the list without annotations
cover images taken from amazon