With holidays fast approaching, I have been madly pre-reading in attempts to find, and stockpile, appropriate books for the four little Bluestockings to while away the hours of travel.

After listening to  The Scarlet Pimpernel on Librivox (Karen Savage does a fantastic job of reading!), the Chicklette begged me to read The Triumph of the Scarlet Pimpernel, so she could take both books on holidays.   This was no great hardship.

While the historical characters are not strictly drawn, these books are a gentle, amusing, although sometimes improbable, introduction to the Reign of Terror, post the French Revolution. I’m not sure if a boy would enjoy them so much: for my girls, it was just enough dashing adventure and suspense,with a slender thread of romance woven through, to keep them asking for more.

Wolf by the Ears, by Ann Rinaldi, is the story of Harriet Hemmings.  Born to the slave mistress of Thomas Jefferson, she is fair skinned with  red hair, and is raised in a hazy no man’s land, between slavery and privilege.

The book details her struggle to come to terms with the reality of her slave status; the truth of her parentage; and the frightening reality that should her master, Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of independence, die, she could be sold to pay his debts.

This was an interesting read, but given the adult themes (not so much the slavery, as the relationships) I have given it a 16 years rating for our household.

The Royal Diaries, Catherine, The Great Journey is ….(shrugging)…. just another Royal Diaries book.  It details the early life and betrothal of Sophia, a German princess, to the heir of the Russian empire.

It is disappointing that it ends at the betrothal, as the more remarkable things in the life of Catherine the Great happened after her marriage.

These books are aimed at the 7 – 12 year market, though I imagine they would still hold interest for older readers.  Points to mark for parental awareness include; the mentions of the Empress’ proclivity for ordering her court’s participation in cross dressing, though the younger child may miss the significance; the mother was emotionally and physically abusive which could be upsetting for early readers with the skill to read the book; there is a blasphemous exclamation early in the book from the mother.

On a literary level, while the book is interesting enough (as far as the whole diary thing goes – it’s a seriously overworked fad in my not very humble opinion) there was an exasperating number of very short sentences and sentence fragments.  In can be punchy.  It can add drama. Or irritation.  See?

I’ve noticed this propensity a great deal among modern children’s writers, and it’s a sad trend.  While it is a device that can add impact, used as commonly as it is today, it reads like Dick and Dora meet Nip and Fluff.

Having that little rant out of the road, the author does the courtesy of adding historical notes with maps and pictures,  which I always appreciate.  Overall, an average quality book which may well incite an interest into the period it describes.

The River of Grace, A Story of John Calvin was great!  A very interesting look into the life of a remarkable man, and a contemporary of Luther and Knox.  While I would assess this book as written for 7 -12 years, it was read by the entire family, and has been a source of prompting for further study.  Excellent reading, it’s available from Ebenezer Books.

The Gauntlet, written by one of my all time favourite authors, Ronald Welch, is a time travel adventure story.  I am not normally a fan of time travel stories, but the tale woven here makes up for the medium (and, thankfully, it is a change from the diary format!)

An intricate picture of life in the fourteenth century is the backdrop for intrigues and adventure, culminating in the uprising of the Welsh tribes and a fierce battle scene.

Welch was a teacher turned writer for boys 10 -14 years, though I happily read anything of his I can find (pre-reading aside!)  This title is one of the few of his to be reprinted in recent times (The Bowman of Crecy was, also) and may be ordered from fishpond.

Twice Freed, by Patrica St John, tells the story of a slave, Onesimus, based on a passing reference from Paul in the book of Philemon. It details the spread of Christianity during Paul’s latter ministry and the havoc it wreaks in the household of the wool merchant, Philemon.

It is told through the eyes of Onesimus, a slave who hates his slavery, but learns that there are worse things than being bound to his master.  There’s plenty of adventure, a whisper of romance, and a great deal of truth to be found in this book.  It was written for young adults, and  while I will be giving it to the Chicklette to read on holidays, the younger Bluestockings will have to wait until they are 13 years to read it.

Not to be left out, Blossy has some new books coming from fishpond, too, from author Charlotte Voake. Anyone read “Ginger”?  It’s cute and fun!

That’s been my week, folks.  Hope your holiday preparations are going well!  🙂

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