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Three New Books Celebrate the Millennium!

Share Students will learn about calendars, important people in history, and a rare moment in time in three recently published books. While these books teach about the turn of the millennium, each will have a long shelf life as a general information resource. Celebrate the millennium -- add these books to your classroom or library collection!

So is the millennium hype over, or is it just beginning? Did you celebrate big-time last week, or are you holding off on the big celebration until the actual start of the new millennium on January 1, 2001? Whichever is the case for you, children's book publishers have recognized this historic moment in time by creating plenty of wonderful resources. This week, Education World takes a look at a few recent releases.

You might also take a look at a book we reviewed at this time last year See our story, Add Turn of the Century to Your Library Collection -- This Year!


Book Cover Image 1,000 years ago About 250 million people lived on planet Earth. Forests covered between 45 and 60 percent of Earth's land surface. People burned wood for light and heat Today -- 1,000 years later -- the human population has exploded to 6 billion people; each year, the world population increases by 100 million people! People have cut down or burned about half the forests that existed 1,000 years ago. And people still burn wood for light and heat -- but we also get energy by burning coal, gas, and oil and from hydroelectric, nuclear, and solar sources.

Author Sneed B. Collard III presents those facts and a panoramic view of life at the turn of the last millennium in a new book from Houghton Mifflin, 1,000 Years Ago on Planet Earth. Collard explores a dozen different civilizations -- including the Americas, Central and Southern Europe, England, China, the Middle East, Africa, and Australia. Each 2-page spread begins "1,000 years ago in" and most spreads transition smoothly to the next.

In 1,000 Years Ago, readers will learn details about life at the start of the second millennium -- about the massive stone pyramids built by the thriving Mayans at Chichen Itza; the learning that flourished in the mosques of the Middle East; and the booming economy established in Central and Southern Africa by the Bantu people. But all was not well in the world. The culture and civilization of Central and Southern Europe was floundering. Education and governments -- which had thrived in the days of the Roman Empire a few centuries earlier -- were suffering. The vast majority of people couldn't read or write.

Each spread's text is accompanied by an ink and watercolor illustration by Jonathan Hunt. Hunt's illustrations help readers define some of the concepts introduced in the text. For example, in eastern North America, probably near the spot known today as St. Louis, the Cahokia people constructed tall mounds of earth that served as temples or meeting places. Hunt's colorful illustrations help readers visualize those mounds and the game called chunkey, a popular game of the time that involved throwing spears at a rolling stone disk.

1,000 Years Ago on Planet Earth is a terrific tool for helping elementary and middle school readers put the new millennium in perspective. It's a history lesson worth repeating this year and for years to come.

Follow-up activity: After reading 1,000 Years Ago on Planet Earth, teachers might:

  • Assign groups of students to explore each of the 12 cultures Collard presents and report back to the class with new information they learn.
  • Assign groups of students to report on the current state of civilization in each of the 12 regions.


Book Cover Image On the surface, teachers might hesitate to present to students a book with such a commercial sounding title as The Official M&M's Book of the Millennium (Charlesbridge Publishing). But if you can overlook the obvious commercial elements of this book, you'll find it to be immensely informative and a very useful tool for presenting the concept of a "millennium" to elementary-age readers.

Even some of the commercial elements of this volume can be turned into teachable moments. After all, MM is the Roman numeral for 2000!

The colorful, round characters with the "melt-in-your-mouth, not-in-your-hands" white gloves have lots to teach young readers. First lesson: The new millennium is a big moment in time for many of the world's citizens, but for many others -- including those who follow the Chinese, Islamic, or Hebrew calendars -- this year has no special significance. The M&M characters explain how those calendars differ from the one with which most of us are familiar. In addition, they take readers back to the early origins of calendars based on the planting seasons, the moon, and the floods; and they explore the origin of days, weeks, and months. Sidebars expose students to "blue moons," the longest year ever (445 days!), and the Roman numeral system.

Creative teachers will find many natural classroom extensions for The Official M&M's Book of the Millennium, written by Larry Dane Brimner and illustrated by Karen E. Pellaton.


Book Cover Image From ancient times to the present, people have tried to predict the future. Among the manifestations of this fascination are horoscopes, Ouija boards, fortune tellers, Tarot cards, and 1-900 psychic hotlines But can we really tell what the future will bring? Perhaps so, according to Kathleen Krull's new book, They Saw the Future: Oracles, Psychics, Scientists, Great Thinkers, and Pretty Good Guessers (Atheneum). History if full of great predictors, and here Krull provides a dozen profiles of those who exhibited an uncanny ability to foresee the future.

While styles and predictions differed, the Greeks' Oracle at Delphi, the French physician Nostradamus, the German nun Hildegard of Bingen, and America's Jeane Dixon are among those credited with knowing the future. Did the Oracle foretell the rise of democracy? Were Nostradamus' predictions meant to warn us of the rise of Hitler and the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic? How did Hildegard, a German nun of the Middle Ages, know about the body's circulatory system three centuries before it was "discovered"? What could explain Jeane Dixon's public premonitions about John F. Kennedy's violent death?

"Over time, we've learned we have more control over the future than we once thought we had," says Krull. "The ancients believed the future was set and that the Oracle and the Sibyls knew what would happen. Now, we know we can impact future events. At the same time, the individuals described in this book had unique abilities we still can't explain. They were not crazy, in fact they were among the great thinkers of their times. Not all their predictions were correct, but it seems many were. At some times in history this ability was seen as a gift, at other times a curse. But whether they were celebrated or reviled, these individuals shared their visions in the hope of helping humanity."

Incredibly, we're still feeling the impact of their predictions today.

The books highlighted in this week's Education World BOOKS IN EDUCATION story are available in bookstores everywhere. If you are unable to locate a copy of the book you want, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly.

  • 1,000 Years Ago on Planet Earth, written by Sneed B. Collard III and illustrated by Jonathan Hunt, is published by by Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10003.
  • The Official M&M's Book of the Millennium, written by Larry Dane Brimner and illustrated by Karen E. Pellaton, is published by Charlesbridge Publishing, 85 Main Street, Watertown, Massachusetts 02472. Phone (617) 926-0329.
  • They Saw the Future: Oracles, Psychics, Scientists, Great Thinkers, and Pretty Good Guessers, written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker, is published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2000 Education World