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I See London

Pop-Up London by Jennie Maizels is reviewed by Krista Jefferies: 

As the torch is passed to the Mother Country for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, who can resist a book of fun facts about London, especially when it’s a pop-up?  Jennie Maizels’ Pop-Up London ($19.99, Candlewick, ages 5 and up) is suggested for ages 5 and up, but adults will enjoy it just the same as they take a journey along the Thames with their toddlers and teens.  Richard Ferguson’s paper engineering brings London to life. In a few impeccably detailed pages, readers will learn of the Globe, Parliament, and Oxford boat races to traditions, attractions, and England’s famous faces.  Though a bit of care must be taken to keep the pages fresh and intact, readers will enjoy finding tips and trivia that hide under every flap and in every corner of the page. So travel across the pond without leaving home by making tracks to your local bookstore. Pop-Up London offers the best views around and no crowds. Add this to your reading list and I know you and the kids will simply flip for this book while you enjoy the games this summer! 

Please Sir, I Want More

I must begin by saying that titles such as these are reason enough to keep printing books the old-fashioned way. The sturdy, meaty volumes are superior in quality in every way. There are envelopes to opens, flaps to flip, sidebars to read and gloriously detailed old-world illustrations to study. The experience a middle grade reader (or middle aged reader, like yours truly) gets from holding this physical book and savoring its contents simply cannot be obtained on a computer.  And no one can talk me into believing it can.

As an English major myself who once visited Dickens’ home in England and who played the small role of Charlotte at age 10, in the play Oliver Twist, I can totally appreciate learning about the author’s life and struggles and how that inspired his writing. Dickens is known for his portrayals of difficult Victorian family life, and writes with a great deal of honesty and insight. His writing was so prolific, that at one time, he was considered the most successful novelist in the world. He often worked on numerous novels at a time.

Several fulfilling hours are needed to read Charles Dickens: England’s Most Captivating Storyteller, open all the letters and flaps and delight in all the tidbits and illustrations. Readers will discover facts about Dicken’s: family life; rise to fame; education; interest in writing about crime; fixation on workhouses; orphan characters; settings for his books; interest in changing industry and technology; love of theater; Christmas themes; social life, visits to America and his legacy.

Did you know that Charles Dickens had 10 children with his wife, Catherine, but that they separated  in 1858? Separation was practically unheard of during the Victorian era. 

This biography celebrates the bicentennial of Dickens’ birth. And with the holidays coming up, I cannot think of a better gift for a middle grade reader or any child who enjoys reading, writing or history. I only wish books like these were available when I was growing up.  This one is indeed a keeper.

CHARLES DICKENS: ENGLAND’S MOST CAPTIVATING STORYTELLER. Text & design copyright © 2011 by The Templar Company Limited. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Ian Andrew, Caroline Anstey, Nick Spender and Diz Wallis. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

A Most Beloved Queen

With today’s review, Debbie Glade takes us back to Tudor times.

A while back I reviewed author Kerrie Logan Hollihan’s great book, Theodore Roosevelt for Kids: His Life and Times. She has written another wonderful Chicago Review Press biography for kids – Elizabeth I: The People’s Queen ($16.95, Chicago Review Press, ages 9 and up), and what a fascinating read it is!

Elizabeth I was born in 1533 into the royal Tudor family. Her father was the notorious King Henry VIII and her mother, the ill-fated Queen Anne Boleyn. When Elizabeth was only 2-years-old, her father had Anne executed for treason. He quickly remarried just 2 weeks later to Jane Seymour, and Elizabeth was soon declared illegitimate and no longer considered royalty. After King Henry VIII passed away, Elizabeth’s young half brother, Edward became King Edward VI and Elizabeth was reinstated to the King’s Court. But Edward lived to be only 6-years-old, leaving Elizabeth’s half sister, Mary Tudor, next in line to become Queen. Mary believed Elizabeth was plotting against her and sentenced her to be imprisoned in the Tower of London. Queen Mary reinstated Catholicism as England’s church during her reign and earned the nickname, “Bloody Mary,” after executing 280 dissenters. Following Mary’s death from natural causes, Elizabeth I was next in line to become Queen of England.

Elizabeth I was fortunate enough as a young child to receive an excellent education by working with tutors hired to teach her brother and later with her own private tutors.  She eventually learned to speak many different languages including Greek, French, Latin and Italian and was skilled at riding horses and loved to hunt.

Readers of this book will discover why Elizabeth was so well loved and so commonly referred to as “The People’s Queen.” She was smart, strong-willed and refused to get married; because she feared her powers may be threatened by taking a husband. She ruled with authority and loved and honored the people of her country, and in return, the people of England loved and honored her. Her legacy includes reinstating Protestantism to her country, defeating the Spanish Armada and creating a defensive foreign policy. She remains one of England’s most celebrated Queens.

Like all of the Chicago Review Press books I’ve read, this one too offers 21 activities for readers. Among my favorites in this book are: creating your family’s coat of arms; making an Elizabethan cloak; carving a turnip and building a knight’s helmet (out of a milk jug.) There is also a Tudor family tree on page 23 of the book to help you sort out all the confusion of who’s who. There are also resources and a reading list for further study in the back of the book.

The Chicago Review Press kids series is ideal for the classroom as well as for curious readers who enjoy learning about fascinating famous world figures. The books are so well researched and written that parents and teachers will enjoy them as well. What I’ve said before about Chicago Press books for children is that they encourage you to think, inspire you to do great things and leave you yearning to research more about the subject.

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