Review: Head First HTML with CSS and XHTML

Head First HTMLHead First HTML with CSS & XHTML by Elisabeth Freeman and Eric Freeman is from O’Reilly’s Head First series. The teacher in me has burned with curiosity about Head First books for some time now, but this is the first Head First book on a topic I feel competent to comment about.

If you’ve looked into my past and examined my writing credits, you know I wrote some books a few years back that involved a lot of work with multiple intelligences. My assumption about the Head First books was that there would be an emphasis on multiple intelligences. I guessed right, but I also fell short.

The book uses humor, goofy word play, unexpected juxtapositions of ideas, stories, clever visuals and diagrams and several different types of activities and quizzes to create what they call a brain friendly way to learn. I attempted reading it with fresh eyes, as if I knew nothing about HTML, and I found their technique to be clear and their explanations made material easy to learn. Because they are using repetition and creating numerous activities and exercises for practicing on each new bit of information, I think new information would be easy to remember. Easy to learn, easy to remember—a winning combination. They also made points with me by using standards, good coding practices, and CSS from the very first.

I don’t know if O’Reilly is targeting an academic market with the Head First books, but this one seems much better suited to the individual learner than to the requirements of a classroom situation. So I cannot recommend it as a text to base a semester around, but I certainly recommend it as a book for individual students to use as a reference, resource, and tool. I recommend that teachers have it on their shelf for the same reasons. Teachers will find some clever new ways to present ideas in this book.

This is no serious-toned technical manual. This is play. If you don’t want to play, you’ll be insulted by it.

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