Book Review: Oh Yikes: History's Grossest Moments

Prepared by Gena Philibert-Ortega.

One of the laments from most genealogists is the lack of interest the younger generations have in their family history. Genealogy is really history on a micro level, looking at history from the experiences of everyday people instead of the macro level of governments and wars. When genealogy is presented using only names and dates it can be boring. But think about what interests kids, interesting facts, sometimes facts that can be downright gross. Well that's the premise of "Oh Yikes: History's Grossest Moments." Kids like history more when some of the less savory moments are featured.

This is not your grandmother's history book, instead you will find small chapters, only a few pages long with stories that are each only a paragraph or two, that address everything from real life monsters, to hoaxes, useless inventions, UFOs, medicine, jobs of yesteryear, school, to how people coped before the advent of toilet paper. (Let's just say I am grateful to be living in more modern times.)

This is a book that my younger son absolutely loves. It makes history fun and also makes him think. The chapter about toilet paper and what our ancestors used for toilet paper brought up a discussion about his great-uncle and how his family would use old catalogs in their outhouse. Yes, not the great inspiring stories we often think associated with family history but learning about everyday life and how much better life is now can also be important.

Online the book is listed as being for ages 9 years and up. Because some of the stories are grosser than others and touch on topics like executions, I would recommend that parents may want to consider their child's maturity level and perhaps take a look through the book prior to purchasing it.

My only complaint about this book is that none of the stories are cited. The author has been involved in a controversy regarding one of her textbooks she wrote and the online research she did that turned out to include a few myths. This may be a small cause for concern; I would assume that being a children's book it shouldn't be too surprisingly the lack of source citations and my guess is that most kid's books do not have source citations. It would provide a good research project for kids to pick their favorite stories out of the book and research them. Wisely, this book also includes a section on urban legends and the warning not to believe everything you read.

"Oh, Yikes!: History's Grossest Moments," by Joy Masoff and Terry Sirrell. Workman Publishing Company. 2006.

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