Tag Archives: European history

Victoria by Catherine Reef

Victoria: Portrait of a Queen by Catherine Reef. November 7, 2017. Clarion Books, 256 p. ISBN: 9780544716148. Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1030.

Catherine Reef brings history vividly to life in this sumptuously illustrated account of a confident, strong-minded, and influential woman.

Victoria woke one morning at the age of eighteen to discover that her uncle had died and she was now queen. She went on to rule for sixty-three years, with an influence so far-reaching that the decades of her reign now bear her name—the Victorian period. Victoria is filled with the exciting comings and goings of royal life: intrigue and innuendo, scheming advisors, and assassination attempts, not to mention plenty of passion and discord.

Includes bibliography, notes, British royal family tree, index.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 7-10. Royalty seems to have a perpetual hold on young readers’ imaginations, and this biography brings the young nineteenth-century queen to the forefront. First, it skims her childhood in a palace, coronation, and fairy tale wedding before going beyond those highlights to shed light on Victoria’s long-lived importance at a time when England and its empire were rapidly changing amid spectacular technological advances. If the conditions of Her Majesty’s rule recalls that of great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth II’s reign, it won’t be lost on those absorbing Reef’s beautifully produced book. Full of color portraits, period engravings, and fascinating photographs of the queen, her consort, and her progeny, this endeavor is made to pore over again and again. Victoria’s personality is at the forefront and humanizes the bio. She is by turns hot-tempered and fair, hardworking yet emotional. Back matter includes a family tree that leads to newest royals George and Charlotte, as well as extensive notes. Anglophiles and history lovers should definitely enjoy this.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2018)
Fans’ obsession with Victorian England seems never-ending, yet how much do young Victorianaphiles know about the real woman who gave the period its name? Coming to the rescue is veteran biographer Reef (Ernest Hemingway, rev. 9/09; Florence Nightingale, rev. 5/16) who, beginning with Victoria’s family background and her complicated and cruel upbringing, paints a vivid portrait of the feisty monarch who assumed the British throne at age eighteen and then ruled for over sixty years. Reef dexterously shows not only Victoria’s development as a person but also her evolution as a ruler within the social and political upheavals of her time, elegantly layering in details to provide a broader view of the era (including the misery of the desperately poor throughout the British Isles, and the brutal bloodshed tied to Britain’s empire-building in places like the Crimean region, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Victoria’s “jewel in the crown,” India). On the personal side, readers will be intrigued by the well-drawn descriptions of Victoria’s relationships with a range of individuals including prime ministers, her own children, other family members, and the various men in her life. These last include her beloved husband Albert and the Scotsman John Brown, a retainer who became (scandalously) close to Victoria after the prince consort’s death. Full of primary source material and spectacular paintings in full color as well as back matter that includes a Windsor family tree, source notes, and a rich bibliography, this is a biography for Victoriana and history lovers alike. monica edinger

About the Author

Catherine Reef is the author of more than 35 nonfiction books for young people. Her books for Clarion include the highly acclaimed John Steinbeck and Sigmund Freud, which was the recipient of the 2002 Sydney Taylor Award, presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries. She lives in College Park, Maryland.

Her website is www.catherinereef.com.

Around the Web

Victoria on Amazon

Victoria on Goodreads

Victoria on JLG

Victoria Publisher Page

 

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We Will Not Be Silent by Russell Freedman

We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman. May 3, 2016. Clarion Books, 112 p. ISBN: 9780544223790.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.7; Lexile: 630.

In his signature eloquent prose, backed up by thorough research, Russell Freedman tells the story of Austrian-born Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie. They belonged to Hitler Youth as young children, but began to doubt the Nazi regime. As older students, the Scholls and a few friends formed the White Rose, a campaign of active resistance to Hitler and the Nazis. Risking imprisonment or even execution, the White Rose members distributed leaflets urging Germans to defy the Nazi government. Their belief that freedom was worth dying for will inspire young readers to stand up for what they believe in. Archival photographs and prints, source notes, bibliography, index.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Anti-Semitism; Reference to sex; Euthanasia and genocide; Graphic photograph; Beheading

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2016)
In the heart of Germany, a student resistance movement called the White Rose took a courageous stand to denounce the Nazis. “They could have chosen to throw bombs,” but the young members of the White Rose chose to oppose Nazi Germany with printed words. The clandestine student activists, including Hans and Sophie Scholl and Christoph Probst, wrote leaflets decrying Nazi atrocities, urging German citizens to resist the Nazi government, and denouncing the Nazi “dictatorship of evil.” Cranking out thousands of mimeographed leaflets at night in a secret cellar, the students proclaimed to Nazi leaders, “We are your bad conscience,” imperiling their lives. Among the wealth of good Holocaust literature available, Freedman’s volume stands out for its focus and concision, effectively placing the White Rose in its historical context, telling the story of Nazi Germany without losing the focus on the White Rose, and doing so in just over 100 pages. Archival photographs are effectively integrated into the text, and the typeface at times resembles the typewriter’s text on mimeographed leaflets, a nice design choice. The selected bibliography includes volumes for young readers and the superb German-language film Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005). A thorough and accessible introduction to the Holocaust and the students who dared to take a stand against evil. (source notes, picture credits, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

Publishers Weekly (February 8, 2016)
Freedman (Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain) illuminates a small but powerful student movement that used a secretive leaflet campaign to oppose Hitler’s regime. Siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl and a few of their like-minded friends at the University of Munich began the White Rose resistance: “All of them were repelled by what was happening in Germany. They yearned to speak freely, to be entirely themselves again.” Nine chapters with titles such as “Rumblings of Doubt” and ” ‘We Are Your Bad Conscience’ ” (wording aimed at Hitler from the fourth leaflet) depict how the Scholls started out as Hitler Youth and gradually became disenchanted with the Nazis’ monolithic message of conformity and hate. Thoroughly researched, with numerous archival photos, this well-told story of the White Rose opposition unfolds chronologically and with building suspense. From the Scholls’ childhood in Nazi Germany to their eventual executions and the legacy of their daring acts of nonviolence, Freedman seamlessly places their story within the larger context of WWII. Source notes, a bibliography, and an index complete this inspiring historical narrative. Ages 10-12. (May)

About the Author

Russell Freedman is the award-winning author of 47 books, some of which have been translated into a diverse number of languages, including Japanese, Korean, German, Spanish, Flemish, Arabic and Bengali. But Freedman wasn’t always a children’s book writer.

He grew up in San Francisco and attended the University of California, Berkeley, and then worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press and as a publicity writer. In these jobs, Freedman did lots of research and provided important information to the public. Since becoming an author, he has done the same thing — but now he gets to focus on topics that he is personally interested in and wants to learn more about.

His nonfiction books range in subject from the lives and behaviors of animals to people in history whose impact is still felt today. Freeedman’s work has earned him several awards, including a Newbery Medal in 1994 for Lincoln: a Photobiography, a Newbery Honor each for Eleanor Roosevelt: A Life of Discovery in 1994 and The Wright Brothers: How They Invented the Airplane in 1992, and a Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal.

Russell Freedman now lives in New York City.

Teacher Resources

White Rose Student Movement Materials and Activities

White Rose Lesson Plan

Around the Web

We Will Not Be Silent on Amazon

We Will Not Be Silent on Goodreads

We Will Not Be Silent on JLG

We Will Not Be Silent Publisher Page

Florence Nightingale by Catherine Reef

Florence Nightingale: The Courageous Life of the Legendary Nurse by Catherine Reef. November 8, 2016. Clarion Books, 192 p. ISBN: 9780544535800. Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1050.

Most people know Florence Nightingale was a compassionate and legendary nurse, but they don’t know her full story. This riveting biography explores the exceptional life of a woman who defied the stifling conventions of Victorian society to pursue what was considered an undesirable vocation. She is best known for her work during the Crimean War, when she vastly improved gruesome and deadly conditions and made nightly rounds to visit patients, becoming known around the world as the Lady with the Lamp. Her tireless and inspiring work continued after the war, and her modern methods in nursing became the defining standards still used today.

Includes notes, bibliography, and index.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Prostitution

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. With special attention to detail and engaging prose, Reef chronicles the life of the mother of modern nursing. Raised in England with a governess and her own father as a tutor, Florence displayed a curiosity for the workings of the natural world, even keeping a catalog of illnesses that beset her family. Though her parents turned up their noses at the idea of her entering nursing—at the time run by religious orders and in “dirty, disgusting” hospitals—Florence was determined. Studying reports of hospitals and health care and taking trips to visit hospitals overseas paid off, as Florence was given oversight of nurses for British forces in the Crimean War. Journalists covering the war brought back news to the homeland of this mysterious Lady with the Lamp. Suddenly, she was famous—though insistent that these popular images hardly represent the exhausting work of nursing. Perhaps most fascinating and relatable for young readers is Florence’s tumultuous relationship with her sister, Parthenope, which softened only with her fame. Budding scientists will enjoy seeing the changing theories about contagion, such as the later-debunked miasma theory, of which Florence was a staunch believer. Portraits, drawings, and other ephemera immerse readers in mid-nineteenth-century Europe. A captivating and inspiring study of one woman’s perseverance and the good that came from it.

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2016)
Reef brings her keen eye for character to the “Lady with the Lamp,” Florence Nightingale. Nightingale’s service during the Crimean War, where she emphasized the importance of good sanitation and a calm demeanor among hospital workers, bringing hope to the injured and dying, made her a worldwide celebrity. At a time when a woman was expected to “[obey] her husband if she was married or her father if she remained single,” Nightingale acquiesced to no one, finding meaning in the work of saving lives and advancing the nursing profession like few before or since. Making fine use of primary sources, Reef paints a complete picture of the complex woman (her management style was “curt”; when advised to be more encouraging to nurses in training, “Nightingale replied that she had no time for such trifles”). All of that character development is sometimes detrimental to the pacing; the book’s first quarter moves rather slowly. But those readers who stick with the book will come away with a true appreciation for a crucial historical figure. Source notes and a selected bibliography are included; index unseen. sam bloom

About the Author

Catherine Reef is the author of more than 35 nonfiction books for young people. Her books for Clarion include the highly acclaimed JOHN STEINBECK and SIGMUND FREUD, which was the recipient of the 2002 Sydney Taylor Award, presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries. She lives in College Park, Maryland.

Her website is www.catherinereef.com.

Around the Web

Florence Nightingale on Amazon

Florence Nightingale on JLG

Florence Nightingale on Goodreads