Monday, January 21, 2013

Castle: How It Works

How often can grown-ups read a nonfiction easy reader and learn a bunch of cool stuff? That's what happened to me when I thumbed through Castle: How It Works by the amazing David Macaulay. This Level 4 easy reader is packed with engrossing details about life inside a medieval Welsh castle. Macaulay acts as tour guide as he leads young readers up a rocky hill, across a moat, and through two gatehouses. Once inside the castle's fortress, readers gambol through a courtyard and climb the castle's spiral staircase. They get to inspect every inch of the building, from the high towers where the lord and lady live all the way to the depths of the dungeon, crammed with enemy soldiers.

So many terms are bandied about--battlement, catapult, portcullis--that I was relieved to see a glossary at the end. While the vocabulary might pose a challenge for beginning readers, the high-interest subject matter more than pays off. What child wouldn't be fascinated to know how a castle's plumbing system works or that hay was used for toilet paper?

Macaulay confesses in an author's note that he didn't like reading as a kid. Pictures were the lure that drew him in. It's fitting then that the illustrations work so perfectly to support the text. My favorite shows a catapult chucking a deceased pig over a castle wall. Again, details add to the fun. Is it my imagination or does a drawing of an eel pie show an eel's tail peeking from the crust?

Castle: How It Works
by David Macaulay with Sheila Keenan
David Macaulay Studio, 32 pages
Published: September 2012

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1 comment:

  1. I like the other titles I have read by Macaulay, but this one did not peak my interest--until now. I will definitely pick it up on my next library run. Thanks for the enthusiastic review. :)