A mixture between a comic strip, chat show and historical non-fiction, Corpse Talk: Kings & Queens and Other Royal Rotters is a unique, riotous and joyful way to introduce children to famous leaders of the past.
Fans of The Phoenix will already be familiar with Corpse Talk by Adam and Lisa Murphy, a regular feature in the weekly comic. The concept is simple: Adam, the witty chat show host, welcomes a new guest to his sofa each week. The difference is that all Adam’s guests are long dead, having been exhumed for the occasion, and are therefore pretty well decomposed in appearance. Adam discusses key events from each leader’s life in an easily digestible and highly enjoyable comic strip format, packed with humour. Corpse Talk introduces children to history in an accessible manner similar to the ever-popular Horrible Histories series. The distinguishing feature is that Corpse Talk provides a ‘first-person’ style account from the leader in question (through the chat show dialogue) but then also provides extra information in a classic non-fiction style annotated diagram. The standout for me is the commentary on the Bayeux Tapestry, recreating the key images and translating the text into a funny, irreverent take on events.
Perhaps one of the best things about Corpse Talk: Kings & Queens and Other Royal Rotters is the range of kings, queens and other leaders depicted. Just over half are European and the rest are from around the globe, providing children a less Euro-centric view on history than perhaps they currently receive at school. The leaders include Qin Shi Huang Di (259-210 BCE), Saladin (1137-1193), Moctezuma II (1466-1520) and Shaka Zulu (1787-1828). Women are also well represented too; I was introduced to Empress Matilda of England (1102-1167) whom I had previously known nothing about.
There are plenty of children who would enjoy Corpse Talk: Kings & Queens and Other Royal Rotters as their reading book, purely to be read for pleasure. However, I am excited to use this book in my History lessons (I have already invested in a copy of Corpse Talk: Ground-Breaking Women for our unit on Elizabeth I). It can often be hard to think of engaging written outcomes for History lessons beyond the usual factfile, but Corpse Talk provides a brilliant model for writing historical comic strips which are both informative and entertaining.
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