This fantastic little tome makes me completely reevaluate my ideas about how languages should be taught. Employing only the most minimal amount of linguistics terminology, Robinson walks the reader through seven texts in related Germanic languages. At the period they were written, these were not even distinct languages, but merely dialects of what experts in diachronic linguistics call "Proto-Germanic." The reader begins to see the connections between languages almost immediately. This is what I mean by saying that this is how languages should be taught. Bringing in a substantial etymological component to language teaching somehow provides context for each word, which somehow makes it more interesting and gripping.
For example -- here is a phrase in Old Frisian, which is a Germanic language that only grad students have ever heard of. The phrase is this, ""Thu skalt erja thinne feder and thine moder, thet tu theste langor libbe." Look familiar? If your life has ever brought you into contact with the Ten Commandments, it might remind you of the phrase "Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother, that you might longer live." That's good if you make that connection, because that's what it means. That isn't even in English! Isn't that cool?!?! The whole book is full of things like that.
In terms of layout, Robinson begins with two introductory chapters in which he walks us through some of the more salient ideas in historical linguistics. The second chapter is very important to understand the bulk of the book. Please dwell on it, and try to read it through at least twice before moving on. Seriously, do this, it will only help. Then there are seven chapters on seven "dialects" of Proto-Germanic, followed up by an interesting little chapter on some controversial issues over which scholars wrangle. Each chapter has several recommendations for further reading at the end of the chapter. I myself have only tried out the recommendation for two of the chapters, Old Frisian an Old Norse, but Robinson's recommendations were terrific for me.
One thing I need to mention -- there is a chart of correspondences in sounds and grammar, on pages 250-251. Somehow, this chart was left out of the table of contents. It is very helpful -- you might want to dog-ear page 250, so you can always find it easily for quick reference, as you're going through each chapter.
Anyway, this book is great for the undergrad linguist, or for any armchair time traveller. Two thumbs up!