Monday, January 14, 2013

Castle: How It Works

Booklist starred (December 1, 2012 (Vol. 109, No. 7))

Grades K-3. Let’s face it. Macaulay wrote the book on castles: his Caldecott Honor winner Castle (1977), later reenvisioned as part of Built to Last (2010). Now he revisits the topic with a younger audience and a new purpose in mind, recalling in an introductory note that as a kid, he didn’t like reading, but he found that pictures made it more fun. Actually, with lines like “Archers will greet you with flaming arrows,” the text here is fun, too. As the narrative begins, a castle stands on a hill, while would-be attackers skulk on another hill in the foreground. Short sentences offer plenty of intriguing information about the castle, its inhabitants, and their many means of defense. Readers are occasionally addressed informally, “Are you friend or foe?” Pretty soon, the attackers make their move. Despite their alarming weapons (battering rams, catapults), it’s clear that in the end, the defenders will prevail. The format is slightly larger than a typical book for beginning readers, giving a bit more scope for the illustrations: strong line drawings with color washes. The use of different perspectives and cross sections is particularly fine. A promising start for Macaulay’s new My Readers series of nonfiction.

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