History – Love it or Hate it!

When I was a kid “social studies” was divided into 3 parts – history, geography, and current events.

History was hateful because it focused largely on battles and wars, dates, and politics. It required a great amount of memory work – not one of my better skills.

Geography was limited to colouring maps, mostly of North America. Other than a few stories I read about children in other lands, I knew little about other countries.

Current Events amounted to listening to a classmate read a newspaper item one morning a week.

This boredom continued until my second year of university. A German professor, educated in England, taught a course in American history at the University of Alberta, Canada. This gave him unique insight, of course. But that wasn’t the fascination. His lectures were stories! Who doesn’t love a good story? Not only did every student, including me, stay awake and listen; we absorbed and we remembered.

This was when I realized that history is just millions and millions of fascinating stories linked together to show the trends, the follies, and the creative progress of man. In the days before TV, there was a radio program called “Grand Central Station,” that stated, “millions of people pass through Grand Central Station every year. This is the story of just one of them.”

Hopefully, in my historical stories, as related by a cat, I can interest a few children in the history of man.


Writing History for Kids

I believe there is a need for challenging and entertaining stories that connect children to our historical past, because our past affects society today and answers the important “why?” questions.

The challenges I draw are to understand the scope of time itself, to understand how people lived, how they contributed to our world today, and how they had the same kinds of concerns as we do.

For example, I did this in my Alexander Catt Series, where Alex observes school children in Ancient Egypt. These children had no desks, and wrote with a stick stylus in soft clay, suffering cuffs from strict teachers when they made mistakes. Alex travelled with Aramus and his family on a felluca up the river to Abu Simbel and rode on a camel on a mission to rescue a beautiful girl in a crisis.  Lexi (Alex’s son) learned the art of Egyptian medicine, and the medicines were not very pleasant. Did you know that when archeologists removed a jar of honey from an ancient Egyptian tomb. It was still sweet and tasty? Honey doesn’t spoil, and has curative powers.

Alex helped children see the medieval world. He was there in the middle of the lists when jousting was so dangerous. He was there, under the tables, benefiting from the elaborate banquets. He travelled to Paris and avoided the falling slops of the city streets but observed the royal entertainments. He benefited from the interest and study of herbs. Flea-less, he escaped the plague.

Both cats, Alex and Lexi, despised war but suffered three of them. Alex avoided the Revolutionary War by going to France with Ben Franklin. However, he was caught up in World War II in dogfights, parachuting during D-Day, and spying, always objecting to the useless violence. Lexi was smack in the middle of World War I did his best to help Marie and Irene Curie. Children who live in peace need to understand that there are children in today’s world suffering pain and loss from useless wars.

However, humans aren’t altogether useless, and Alex and Lexi lived with some fine specimens. Lexi lived with Hippocrates , Marie Curie, Joseph Lister, and Linus Pauling. Alex lived with Leonardo da Vinci, Ben Franklin, Elizabeth I, Queen Victoria, Sam Steele, and Shakespeare, et al.

Through peaceful times and wartimes, people had to eat, stay clothed and sheltered, and respect each other. Everyone wanted someone to care about them, even if it were only a cat.

Luckily my two cats had 9 lives each to connect us to former times in their “meowmoirs.”