Thursday, April 28, 2016

World Travels with Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels

Mater Amabilis™™ Level 3 recommends Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels, spread over the two years of the level, the Occident in Year 1 (sixth grade) and the Orient in Year 2 (seventh grade). I debated about finding an alternate title as it seemed expensive, but everywhere I looked online the homeschool voices resounded with praises for this book and lamentations that nothing else was comparable. I found Richard Halliburton's Complete Book of Marvels at the bargain price of about $28 including shipping using It may be cheaper to buy the two copies separately, but I like having it all in one book. (When I checked earlier this spring, it looked like the complete book was more reasonably priced than each volume separately.) I did talk seriously with First Son about our copy, explaining it was an older book that would require gentle handing.

Today I'd like to add my voice to the others singing the praises of The Complete Book of Marvels. This is by far my favorite Level 3 book!

Richard Halliburton writes as if he is traveling with a group of young people beginning in California, traveling east across the United States and then through Europe, ending in Istanbul. Written in the 1930s, the descriptions and stories are, of course, missing a few decades of history, but it's simple to supplement with some searches online if necessary. Each chapter swirls from geography to history to inspiring descriptions to travel adventures. There are ample photographs in the book, some from the author's own travels. His stunts like swimming the Panama Canal and thrusting a stick into the a smoking crack of Vesuvius thrill the reader and are perfect for reading rather than doing.

The descriptions astound and delight. Reading about places I'd been, I yearned to return. Reading about new and exotic places, I suddenly felt a wanderlust, a desire to venture out into the wide world. Halliburton invites the reader to venture to the edge of volcanoes, the pinnacle of mountains, and the dungeons of castles. In the chapter on the Iguazu Falls, he writes:
Then, abruptly, we reach the edge of a terrific mile-wide abyss, and stand before what seems, at the moment, to be all the beauty in the world changed into mist and moonlight, floating out from among the stars, and falling and fading into a bottomless fissure in the earth.
There are also exquisite descriptions of the wondrous, like the Blue Grotto:
Magic has been worked on everything. About us hang the draperies of an azure fairyland. The rock of the cavern walls has been changed to a curtain of soft sapphires ashine with silver spangles. And the water we float on is no longer water. It's a bottomless sky shot full of unearthly blue light. Blue--blue--blue--silvery, shimmering, fairy blue dances on the ceiling, electrifies the quivering lake and touches the very air with supernatural radiance, overwhelming us with its blue beauty.
First Son read one chapter each week, narrating it orally. I also assigned him mapwork in his Geography Coloring Book as it was appropriate. I bought this book a few years ago and we use it over and over again, coloring in new pages as we work through geography and other lessons.

Chapter 1 - color California on p 11
Chapter 3 - color Washington on p 11
Chapter 4 - color Arizona on p 11
Chapter 5 - color Nevada on p 11
Chapter 6 - color New York on p 7
Chapter 8 - color Washington, D.C. on p 7
Chapter 9 - color Florida on p 8
Chapter 10 - color Mexico on p 12
Chapter 12 - color Haiti on p 13
Chapter 13 - color Panama on p 12
Chapter 14 - color Peru on p 17
Chapter 15 - color Argentina on p 17
Chapter 16 - color Brazil on p 16
Chapter 17 - color Spain on p 21
Chapter 18 - color France on p 21
Chapter 21 - color Switzerland on p 22
Chapter 23 - color Italy on p 23
Chapter 27 - color Greece on p 23
Chapter 29 - color European Russia and Asian Russia on p 26
Chapter 30 - color Turkey on p 30

First Son's copy of the Geography Coloring Book is an older one, but First Daughter has the third edition and I checked that the page numbers are still accurate.

I am eagerly anticipating the second half of this book as we venture into the Orient!


  1. I used MA and frequently check your website for book reviews. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I used MA and frequently check your website for book reviews. Thank you for sharing!


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