________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 11 . . . . January 23, 2009

cover Shakespeare's Quill. (Stories of Great People).

Gerry Bailey & Karen Foster. Illustrated by Leighton Noyes & Karen Radford.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2008.
40 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.56 (RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3713-1 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-7787-3691-2 (RLB).

Subject Headings:
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616-Juvenile fiction.
Dramatists, English-early modern, 1500-1700-Biography-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**½ /4

   
cover Leonardo's Palette. (Stories of Great People).

Gerry Bailey & Karen Foster. Illustrated by Leighton Noyes & Karen Radford.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2008.
40 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.56 (RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3709-4 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-7787-3687-5 (RLB).

Subject Headings:
Leonardo, da Vinci, 1452-1519-Juvenile fiction.
Painters-Italy-Biography-Juvenile fiction.
Scientists-Italy-Biography-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**½ /4

   
cover The Wright Brothers' Glider. (Stories of Great People).

Gerry Bailey & Karen Foster. Illustrated by Leighton Noyes & Karen Radford.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2008.
40 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.56 (RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3715-5 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-7787-3693-6 (RLB).

Subject Headings:
Wright, Orville, 1871-1948-Juvenile fiction.
Wright, Wilbur, 1867-1912-Juvenile fiction.
Aeronautics-United States-Biography-Juvenile fiction.
Inventors-United States-Biography-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**½ /4

   
cover Armstrong's Moon Rock. (Stories of Great People).

Gerry Bailey & Karen Foster. Illustrated by Leighton Noyes & Karen Radford.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2008.
40 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.56 (RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3706-3 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-7787-3684-4 (RLB).

Subject Headings:
Armstrong, Neil, 1930- -Juvenile fiction.
Project Apollo (U.S.)-Juvenile fiction.
Space flight to the moon-Juvenile fiction.
Astronauts-United States-Biography-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**½ /4

   
cover Cleopatra's Coin. (Stories of Great People).

Gerry Bailey & Karen Foster. Illustrated by Leighton Noyes & Karen Radford.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2008.
40 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.56 (RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3707-0 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-7787-3685-1 (RLB).

Subject Headings:
Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, d. 30 B.C.-Juvenile fiction.
Queens-Egypt-Biography-Juvenile fiction.
Egypt-History-332-30 B.C.-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**½ /4

   
cover Marco Polo's Silk Purse. (Stories of Great People).

Gerry Bailey & Karen Foster. Illustrated by Leighton Noyes & Karen Radford.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2008.
40 pp., pbk. & hc., $11.95 (pbk.), $21.56 (RLB).
ISBN 978-0-7787-3710-0 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-7787-3688-2 (RLB).

Subject Headings:
Polo, Marco, 1254-1323(?)-Juvenile fiction.
Explorers-Italy-Biography-Juvenile fiction.
China-Description and travel-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.

Review by Harriet Zaidman.

**½ /4

excerpt:

Every Saturday morning, Knicknack market comes to life. The street vendors are there almost before the sun is up. And by the time you and I are out of bed, the stalls are built, the boxes are opened, and all the goods are carefully laid out on display.

Children can learn about a period in history through the stories of people who made the headlines. Good biographies include information about the era — the way people lived, the culture, the events. "Stories of Great People" uses objects contemporary children find in a curiosity shop as a portal into the lives of notable individuals and the times in which they lived.

     The setup for the entire series is Knicknack Market which has a variety of vendors who all, in one book or another, figure into the stories. The characters that appear in each book are identified before the title page; the entire list is at the back.

     The text includes dialogue on each page between the characters: Digby, the young antique collector and his cynical older sister Hannah, Mr. Rummage, the antique shop owner, and the appropriate other vendor. Digby is enthusiastic about whatever he finds every Saturday morning; Hannah mocks his treasures as junk. Mr. Rummage and the other vendor use their conversations as an opportunity to impart information to the kids. Finally, Hannah is won over and is as excited as Digby about what they have learned.

     Each page also has factual information divided into subheadings. One text font is used for the information about the person, whose life is followed from childhood on, and another for details about the era.

     Overall, this format is a good way to make a connection between modern children and history. However, these books are riddled with errors and omissions that make a teacher sigh. Good teachable moments are lost for no reason; Crabtree has been in business long enough to know that sound planning and editing will round a book out and make it useful as a teaching tool and appealing for the casual reader. Using Cleopatra's Coin as an example, it would be good to have explanations for the following: P. 9 — Why is Cleopatra described as a 'seductress' without explanation, given that this book is targeted at children as young as 7? P. 10 — Cleopatra is described as being Macedonian by birth. Where is Macedonia? Wouldn't it be useful to have a map to show where Macedonia is in relation to Egypt? P. 12 — Cleopatra spoke Greek only. Why? What complications could this have had in her role as Queen of Egypt? No explanation is offered. P. 19 — Cleopatra's brother was 'guided by guardians.' Who were these guardians and how was the child being manipulated so that "they" could gain power? How will a child understand this expression?

     In Marco Polo's Silk Purse: P. 14 — Marco Polo traveled to places considered exotic and impossible to reach at the time, from Venice to Kanbulu — which the book identifies as 'Peking' but does not identify further as modern-day Beijing. A map outlining Polo's travels and both the old and modern names for the places he visited would be a welcome addition for armchair historians. Each book is 37 pages long. A map could have taken the place of a drawing or have been used as a background for the text. P. 15 — A subheading tells readers that the Polos considered sailing in a ship called a 'dhow,' and the word is bolded for explanation in the glossary. The Polos thought they were "death traps," but, despite their importance and danger, no picture is available. How is a young child supposed to know what a dhow looks like? At the back of Marco Polo's Silk Purse is a page entitled 'Fact or fiction,' but there are no facts presented on the page, just repudiations of Polo's claims.

     These and other examples reduce the potential strength of these biographies. The illustrations, from the fun pictures of the children in the market to the reproductions of ancient drawings, are interesting.

Recommended with reservations.

Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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