All the short easy reader books on this page are true stories from history. They are graded readers in the Oxford Bookworm series. Each book is written in a simple clear style for students who are learning English as a second or foreign language. Two of these books – Titanic and he Everest Story – won first prize in their categories from the Extensive Reading Foundation.
There is one thing that everyone knows about the Titanic. It sank, in the middle of Atlantic, and 1,500 people died. Later, people made films about it.
But why did it sink? Why did all those people die? Where were the people going, anyway? And what happened to the people who didn’t die?
This book tries to answer those questions. It tells you about the ship, the lifeboats, and the iceberg. But it also tells you about some of the real ordinary people on the Titanic – people like Anna Turja, an 18-year-old girl from Finland; Jack Phillips, a radio operator; and Millvina Dean, the youngest passenger on the ship. It also solves the mystery of ‘the unknown child’ – a two-year-old baby who was found dead in the sea, but nobody knew his name.
There were many heroes on the Titanic, of course. Here are two of my favourites:
1. An unknown Japanese man who was pulled into a lifeboat after two hours in the icy sea. After a few minutes he sat up, picked up an oar, and helped to row the boat!
2. Second Officer Charles Lightoller. He was the last person to leave the lifeboats, and he lived for another 40 years. Amazingly, two more ships sank under him, and he was saved each time!
This is a very sad story, but it has a lot of happy moments too. In London, in 1886, Dr Frederick Treves saw a sign in a shop window. Come in and see The Elephant Man, it said. He went inside, paid the shopkeeper two pence, and went to the back of the shop. Here he found Joseph Merrick, a poor, ill man with a horrible disease. People paid money to look at him and laugh.
Dr Treves took Merrick to the London Hospital. He wasn’t able to cure Merrick from his disease, but he gave him a home in the hospital. Merrick learned to read, visited the theatre and countryside, and began to have a normal life. Many important people came to talk to him, including the Queen.
Dr Treves wrote the story of the Elephant Man himself, and I have just told it in simple English. It is a very popular book – many thousands of people all over the world have read it. A few years ago it was translated into Japanese by the pupils from … school in Japan. I was very pleased when they sent me a copy.
One other thing – there is a mistake somewhere in this story. It has always been there, but only one person has ever noticed it in 15 years. If you find it, let me know!
I really like this story. It’s true, and sad, and wonderful. It’s the story of a remarkable man, Patrick Bronte, who was left with six children on his own after his wife died. With the help of his dead wife’s sister, Patrick brought up his children in the village of Haworth, on the edge of the Yorkshire moors, in the wild north of England. The children had few toys, no friends, and spent days inventing imaginary stories for each other. Two the children died, but their sisters grew up to be some of the most famous novelists in English literature. Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre, and her sister Emily wrote Wuthering Heights.
Patrick tells this story in his own words. He had a hard, difficult life, and he lived much longer than his famous children. He was very proud of his children, but also sad about some of the things they did. And like many parents, he was kind to them in some ways, but not so kind in others.
There are lots of pictures in the book to show what Haworth was really like, and today, if you come to England, you can visit the house where all these people lived.
This is the story of a race. Who will be the first man to the South Pole? The Englishman, Robert Falcon Scott, or the Norwegian, Roald Amundsen? In 1910, two teams set off to Antarctica, for one of the most difficult journeys in history. Many of the men would never come home again.
Scott is famous because he was a great writer. He wrote a diary of his expedition, which people still read today. But I think Amundsen was a better explorer. Look at this, for example. Amundsen took teams of dogs to Antarctica. The dogs pulled the sledges, and he fed them on meat from seals and penguins. Scott took a few dogs, but he also took horses. What? Yes, really – he took horses to Antarctica. Think about that. What do horses eat? Snow? Meat? No, they eat grass. And there isn’t any grass in Antarctica, is there? None at all.
In this book you can see how the race was won, and how it was lost.
There were two queens in Britain in the 1500s – Queen Elizabeth of England, and Queen Mary of Scotland. Mary was beautiful, but Elizabeth was clever. Mary had three husbands, but Elizabeth never married. Mary had a son, Elizabeth had no children. Mary was Catholic, Elizabeth was Protestant.
So you see, there wasn’t really room in this island for these two queens. A lot of people wanted Mary to be Queen of England, not Elizabeth. And so, of course, Elizabeth was afraid of her. She locked her up in prison. And many people said ‘You must kill her.’
How did it feel, to be Mary – a Scottish queen in an English prison? For years she hoped to be free;, but it never happened. In this book she tells her own story. She explains how she lost three husbands (three? Yes, really!); she writes letters to her son, James, and to Elizabeth; and she thinks of the day she must die.
This story won the SSS Book award in Japan in 2002.
Are brave men always friendly and polite? Are strong, clever men always kind? No, not always. Sometimes in a story, it’s difficult to decide who is good and who is bad, who is right and who is wrong. This is a story like that.
Captain William Bligh and Lieutenant Fletcher Christian were officers on the ship HMS Bounty. In 1787 they sailed halfway around the world together – from England to Tahiti. Then they argued. Fletcher was so angry with Bligh that he left him in a small boat, with 19 men, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps Bligh was a cruel, hard man. But he was also very brave, and a wonderful sailor. He sailed that small boat 7,000 kilometres, in 41 days, and only one man died.
But what about Christian? Well, he sailed the Bounty to a Pacific island, and tried to start a new life there. He and his men were happy there, but they were afraid too. Every night they worried about something. ‘Maybe one day, another English ship will come to this island, and find us. What will happen to us then?’
This book gives you the answer.
Ireland is a beautiful, interesting country, an island on the far west of Europe. Irish people are some of the friendliest people in the world, but they have a long, sad history of wars and terrorism. This book tells you something about Ireland’s history – St Patrick, who made Ireland a Christian country; the Vikings, who nearly destroyed it; and the hundreds of years of argument between Ireland and England.
It also shows you some of the beautiful places in Ireland – the island of Skellig Michael, far out in the western Atlantic; the Giant’s Causeway in the north, the river Shannon, the cliffs of Moher. It tells you about Ireland’s great cities – Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Derry and Galway. Many people come to Ireland to fish in the lakes and rivers, or to enjoy the quiet peaceful countryside.
Most people in Ireland speak English, but there is an Irish language too. Irish sportsmen play football, but they have other sports too, like hurling, from which Australian football came. Another great Irish sport is horse racing – in fact anything to do with horses. Young boys learn to race horses here from an early age, and most of the best jump jockeys in Britain come from Ireland.
Ireland is also famous for writers, like Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, Samuel Becket and Seamus Heaney, and many artists and musicians come from Ireland too – like U2, one of the most famous rock bands in the world today. And above all, Ireland today is a country for young people – 50% of all Irish men and women today are under 25.
The first is the earliest expedition, who went twice – in 1922 and 1924. These men had very primitive equipment – hobnailed boots, tweed jackets, heavy ice axes – but they climbed higher than any men before them. In fact, some people believe that two of them – Mallory and Irvine – were the first men to reach the summit. Perhaps they did, but no-one knows for sure, because Mallory and Irvine never came back. They died, high on the mountain, in 1924, and no-one knew what happened to them until 1999, when Mallory’s body was found, cold and frozen to the ground, about 800 metres from the summit.
The second expedition was led by John Hunt, in 1953. Two of these climbers – Sherpa Tenzing and the New Zealander Edmund Hillary – were the first men ever to reach the summit. They stood together on the highest place in the world. This was a fantastic achievement, of course. But Hillary and Tenzing, like Mallory and Irvine before them, were part of a large expedition. Many other climbers and porters helped them to carry equipment up the mountain. And they used oxygen to help them breathe in the thin mountain air.
All of these expeditions were extremely difficult and dangerous. But which was the most amazing? Mallory and Irvine in 1924, with heavy boots and tweed jackets? Hillary and Tenzing in 1953, the first men ever to reach the summit? Or Reinhold Messner in …., one man all alone on the mountain?
Read the book and decide for yourself.
This a a book about some of the most amazing animals that ever lived.
Today, there are humans all over the Earth. We humans are the most successful animals on the planet. But it wasn’t always like this. In fact, humans have only been here a very short time. For hundreds of millions of years, the most successful animals on Earth were not humans, but dinosaurs. And many dinosaurs were much bigger, stronger, and more frightening than any animal alive on Earth today.
This book tells you the story of dinosaurs. The story starts with the first discoveries of dinosaur bones, in Victorian England. Then it goes all over the world, because dinosaurs lived everywhere – America, Asia, Africa, China, Australia – even in Antarctica! Many dinosaurs were big and scarey, but there were small dinosaurs too. Some dinosaurs could climb trees, many dinosaurs had feathers, and some of them could fly. The book tells you how dinosaurs made nests, laid eggs, and looked after their babies. And it tells you how, very suddenly, all the dinosaurs disappeared.
There are no dinosaurs alive today, are there? That’s what most people think. But some scientists have a different idea. Look out of your window, they say, and you will see dinosaurs everywhere. What do they mean? Read this book and find out.