Berwick couple tell the story of Britain - in just 80 pages

New book by Northumberland writers crams 8,000 years of history into fun format for youngsters

Artists Brita Granstrom and Mick Manning
Artists Brita Granstrom and Mick Manning

Husband and wife team Mick Manning and Brita Granström have told their fair share of tales over the last 21 years of working together on almost 100 children’s books.

The most recent have looked at the lives and achievements of Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens and The Beatles.

But the latest book from the illustrators, who live near Berwick in Northumberland, is the biggest story of them all – the history of Britain from the time around 6000BC when it became an island.

As the climate warmed and the ice sheets melted, up went the sea levels. The land bridge which connected Britain to the Continent, and areas like Doggerland, vanished beneath the waves.

“Britain is now an island. Our story has begun,” says a prehistoric but friendly-looking character in Mick and Brita’s book The Story of Britain, published by Franklin Watts at £13.99.

Aimed at the eight to 12 years group, but equally attractive to younger and older age bands, the book aims to fire their interest in history.

Landscape and portrait painter Brita has provided the illustrations while Mick took on the research and text.

Young Charlie Manning holding the new book by his parents, The Story Of Britain
Young Charlie Manning holding the new book by his parents, The Story Of Britain

The task was to squeeze thousands of years of history into 60 pages. They told the publishers it couldn’t be done, and won an extra 20 pages.

“We love history. It took us two years to do the book and it was incredibly hard to decide what to put in and what to leave out,” says Mick, who studied graphics and illustration in the 1970s at Newcastle Polytechnic.

They decided to tell the story in chronological order, which would be easy for youngsters to follow.

“Kings and queens have to be there but we did not want to do a book which was a list of kings and queens,” says Mick.

The story of Britain includes a formidable cast of characters. Mick says: “All our books are very visual. You can say a lot through the images.”

The Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages are covered, then Roman Britain, the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans, Plantagenets, medieval wars, Henry VIII, the Elizabethan Age, Shakespeare, the Civil War, the Hanoverians, Napoleonic wars, Georgian life, the Industrial Revolution, the Victorians, Edwardians, the First World War, inter-war years, Second World War, the Sixties and into the 21st Century.

Characters that feature in The Story of Britain book
Characters that feature in The Story of Britain book

Hadrian’s Wall features, as does the Venerable Bede, George and Robert Stephenson and the Jarrow marchers.

On the Jarrow March, Mick says: “My own grandfather came back from the First World War to find there was no work. The march was an example of the North standing up and saying to the South ‘take notice of us.’”

Brita says: “Events like the Jarrow March were very important in the social history of the country.

“ The book was the most difficult challenge we have taken on. But I think that children are interested in history because it is a story which relates to them.

“What also emerges is that waves of people have been coming to Britain from the very beginning as immigrants.”

The couple end their book with the passage: “ History isn’t just about famous people. It’s about you and me. It’s about our mums and dads.

“Our ancestors settled here or were born here and they have lived through the history in this book from way back then to here right now.

“Their history is your history too. History leads right up to the very moment that you read these words, and beyond.”

Mick says: “We just hope it all enthuses kids about history.”


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