What were the Early Kids like? What were their lives like, thousands of years before schools and homework .. not to mention PSPs, television and Happy Meals? What did they do for fun, between mammoth hunts and foraging expeditions, and just what did it to take to drive the Early Parent up that cave wall? Here is a sampling of books that my daughter and I have read over the years, that offered us a glimpse of life as a cave-child….
Written by Pippa Goodheart
Illustrated by Nick Maland
Publisher: Walker Books
Age level: 3 +
Glog is mistakenly left behind when his tribe moves camp. But the brave and resourceful little boy figures out how to look after himself. Along the way, he finds new friends in Shadow, Echo and Water Boy - you guessed it, his shadow, echo and reflection – while fending off a wolf and learning to fish. The book is designed as an early reader, and packed with adorable black and white illustrations that, for me, were the highlight of the book.
Written by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Emily Gravett
Age level: 3+
This lovely picture book celebrates art and colour - and the inviolable privilege of the very young to draw any time and anywhere they please. Little Cave baby loves the art his mother makes on the walls of their cave. In fact, he loves it so much he decides to add his own squiggles to her drawings. Needless to say, mummy and daddy are not pleased. "If you don't take care",, says the Baby’s dad, "a mammoth's going to throw you to the big brown bear!". And sure enough, that very night, a gigantic wooly mammoth appears and silently whisks our frightened little artist away. Through the jungle they travel, meeting a variety of prehistoric beasties – laughing hyenas, leaping hares, a lurking sabre tooths - before reaching another cave. What happens next? Rest assured, our baby gets exactly what he deserves which, in the case of a book that combines the wit of Julia Donaldson with the art of Emily Gravett, can only be a good thing.
Ug : Boy Genius of the Stone Age and his Search for Soft Trousers
Written and Illustrated by: Raymond Briggs
Publisher: Red Fox Books
Age level: 6+
Raymond Briggs’ children’s books usually defy convention, and this one is no exception. Told in the comic strip format for which Briggs is famous, Ug’s is a bittersweet story of misunderstood genius. All Ug wants is for things to be a little more comfortable – softer pants, tastier food, a warmer cave. His life is a series of near- inventions, as he stops just shy of inventing everything from the wheel, boats and cattle corrals to indoor heating and, of course, the eponymous soft trousers. At every step he is thwarted by his mother (depicted as a bullying harridan), meek and defeated father and unsympathetic friends. The text is replete with jokes and anachronisms (he actually labels parts of the illustrations as such) about the Stone Age. Not a book you want to read if you like your endings happy and sunny. But definitely a book to read, if you want to sample Briggs’ humour and keen eye for human behavior , or just enjoy his dense, textured art.
The Cave Boy of the Age of Stone
Written by Margaret A. McIntyre
Illustrated by Irma Deremeaux
Age Level: YA
Published in 1907, this might well be the earliest children’s book set in the Stone Age, and chronicling the lives of early humans. The book follows the day to day lives of two brothers, Thorn and Pineknot, and their family. Their father, Strongarm, takes the boys on expeditions to trap and kill wild animals, while their mother forages for food and tends to their baby sister. The Stone Age people are shown as clever and resourceful, capable of domesticating animals and setting up flint factories to make tools. The book is bound to sound a little dated now, not to mention racist, with the odd comment in the "..white man..better than red man.." vein. But it is still worth a read for the detailed description if offers us of those faraway times, and its vivid pen and ink illustrations. As the book is now in the public domain, an electronic version can be freely downloaded here.Image courtesy
Written and Illustrated by Roy Gerrard
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
This is a sweet and gentle tale of the friendship between a lonely caveboy and a wooly mammoth. Mik the caveboy is shunned, and abandoned by his tribe, for being different - he is blond and beardless, useless at hunting, and likes art and growing things. Wandering alone, he rescues a baby mammoth stuck in a snow drift. The two become friends and cavemates, and help each other through the difficult winter, before Mik’s tribe returns and he gets to redeem himself by saving them from danger.The story is told in clever and articulate rhyming verse, while the illustrations are painterly and adorable all at once; set against stunningly painted landscapes, Gerrard’s cavemen are diminutive little cuties and his chubby mammoth has all the menace of a plush toy.
Time travel seems a recurring theme in books about prehistory, as we have encountered several stories about modern day children falling through mysterious holes, to wind up thousands of years in the past.
Stig of the Dump
Written by Clive King
Illustrated by Edward Ardizzone
Publisher: Puffin Books
Barney, in this modern day classic, falls into an old and disused chalk pit in the Downs, in present day southern England, where he discovers caveboy Stig’s den. The two boys quickly become friends, communicating without language, and have a series of adventures that culminate in a dream sequence where Barney and his sister travel back in time to join Stig and his people in an ancient ceremony.
Stone Age Boy
Written and Illustrated by Satoshi Kitamura
Publisher: Walker Books
Age level: 4+
Much like Barney, the narrator of Stone Age Boy falls down a shaft and straight into a Stone Age village. He befriends a prehistoric girl called Om and her family, learns to hunt, carve and fish and watches them make cave art. When they are attacked by a bear, the boy finds himself back in the modern age and is told that he was probably dreaming. Yet, was he? Kitamura leaves us with a clue and a surprise ending that is sure to leave you smiling. I especially enjoyed this book for the amount of historical information it packs into a few spreads, without once sounding like a textbook.
Written by David Shapiro
Illustrated by Christopher Herndon
Publisher: Craigmore Creations
Strictly speaking, this book doesn’t belong on this list as it features no cavemen at all, but it does have its three young protagonists falling through a time travelling portal and ending up in 15,000BC, for a ringside view to an Ice Age. They encounter dangerous predators, survive floods and sabre tooth attacks. Most of all, they learn to coexist, as each child has unique talents that help keep them alive. First in the Terra Tempo series, the book is designed as a graphic novel and wonderfully mixes geological and historical fact with some good ol’ speculative fiction.