Tales of Ancient Worlds: Adventures in Archaeology
Illustrated by Sam Caldwell
When I heard Stefan Milosavljevich wrote a children’s book on archaeology, I was intrigued. Those of you that know of Stefan’s work on YouTube know him as Stefan Milo, the YouTuber with a lavalier microphone on a plastic spoon who produces wonderful videos about archaeology and history.
Many of his videos are on topics that debunk various claims in pseudoarchaeology, which is why I was intrigued about his book!
The book itself is definitely for kids about 7 to 11 years of age. The size is 9.5″ x 11″ (23.5 cm x 29 cm), the type is easy to read, and the book is broken down in to four chapters:
- Chapter 1 The First Humans
- Chapter 2 The Age of Cities
- Chapter 3 Ancient Empires
- Chapter 4 The Age of Discovery
Also included are a glossary and an index, making this a valuable resource for the young student looking for information on the Antikythera Mechanism or just wanting to know what a ziggurat is. But, for a children’s book, the illustrations are fantastic. Bright and colorful, Sam Caldwell’s artwork adds a visual component important to connect a child’s imagination to the words on each page.
Together, both author and illustrator convey to the young reader the information needed to understand the nature of human civilization from the earliest hominid through the peopling of the Americas. Just the right amount of mystery is highlighted to inspire wonder and curiosity. If we’re all lucky, a few of these young readers will want to pursue careers in archaeology, history, and anthropology.
Now, this was not a computer in the modern sense. It couldn’t play any games. You couldn’t’ watch videos of funny dogs on it or use it to do your homework. Its exact function was not understood in 1900. It wasn’t until the 1970s that X-ray results first revealed what it did, and not until 2006 that we fully understood what was going on inside this funky piece of metal.
The Antikythera Mechanism was a device for calculating the positions of the planets and bodies in the solar system, or at least the ones that are visible to the naked eye: the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.Page 110
Contrary to many of his videos, Milosavljevich doesn’t spend time debunking pseudoarchaeological claims, which is good. However, many of the sites and objects that are the focus of these claims are discussed, but with factual and accurate descriptions. Throughout the book, the narrative is on what we know, how we know it through archaeology, and where the limitations of our knowledge is.
Tales of Ancient Worlds is a wonderful gift for any child of elementary to middle school age. But I would not hesitate to start a child as young as 4 on this book as an evening reader. The illustrations alone are enough to invoke curiosity and start discussion. This book reminds me a lot of the dinosaur books I read to my daughter at a very early age, helping her to learn their scientific names well before she could read them (“look, a Parasaurolophus!” from an excited four-year-old in a museum full of adults is a fun thing to hear).
Sadly and proudly at the same time, my daughter is now a university student. So, rather than save the copy I purchased from Amazon for future grandkids, I’ll be donating it in mint condition to a library in Virginia where a librarian-friend will make it available to the kids checking out a less factual or critical book with a similar topic. The fantastical book will stay in the stacks, but at least Tales of Ancient Worlds will be nearby, beckoning their imaginations and giving a critical balance.
With any luck, I’ll buy another in a few years for those grandkids, continuing a family tradition of reading well-written and illustrated books of science, inspiring them to read, learn, and grow.