Bad Princess: True Tales from Behind the Tiara by Kris Waldherr

Published by Scholastic

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Summary:  For centuries, princesses have captured the public’s imagination.  From the “princess wars” between Henry VIII’s daughters Mary and Elizabeth to the 21st century obsession with Kate Middleton, princesses have long been in the public eye.  This book looks at some of history’s “bad” princesses who have been surrounded by scandals ranging from divorce to murder.  Many are European, but there are also appearances by other nationalities like Hawaii’s Princess Ka’iulani and Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, a Dubai sheikha who competed in the 2008 Summer Olympics in tae kwon do.  Sidebars give interesting additional information about real-life princesses and their fairytale counterparts.  The book ends with a tournament of historical and storybook princesses (you’ll have to find out for yourself if Diana or Cinderella takes it all) and a princess board game.  Includes resources for further reading.  128 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  A heavy dose of history is handled with a light touch, complete with pink-tinged black-and-white illustrations and plenty of humor.  

Cons:  So many princesses to keep track of.

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The Underground Railroad (American Girl: Real Stories from My Time series) by Bonnie Bader, with Addy stories by Connie Porter; illustrated by Kelley McMorris

Published by Scholastic

Summary:  The story of the Underground Railroad and slavery in America is told in this chapter book that includes sections on these two topics as well as abolitionists, slave catchers, and the Emancipation Proclamation.  Each chapter ends with two pages told by Addy Walker, the American Girl whose story includes an escape from slavery.  Her narrative is in her voice, drawing from the original American Girl books.  Black and white illustrations and photographs appear every two or three pages.  Includes a note about Addy’s dialect, a glossary, a map of free and slave states and territories in 1856, a timeline, and source notes.  112 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  What could have been a simple marketing tool for Addy is actually a very informative, engagingly written nonfiction book.  Other topics in the series will include the Boston Tea Party, the Titanic, and Pearl Harbor.  I will leave it to you to match the topic with the American Girl.

Cons:  On page 25, Quakers are described as “a Christian group who believe that people should shake and tremble at the word of the Lord.”  Having been part of a variety of Quaker meetings for the last fifteen years, I can safely say I have yet to meet a Quaker who fits this description.

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