I handed this level 4 reader to Louise a few weeks ago because I thought she’d enjoy it. We’ve been studying the Middle Ages this year, and when I read David Macaulay’s original book, Castle, earlier this school year, it was a hit. Louise has been known to draw elaborate pictures of castles (sort of cut-away versions where you can see the inside) in her spare time, so I had little doubt that she would like Castle: How It Works. What I did not anticipate is that she’d like it so much that she’d spend more than an entire hour-long rest time reading it and writing what she learned in an “essay”! To say that she liked this book is a bit of an understatement, I think. This book is written directly to the reader in a style akin to those You Wouldn’t Want To. . . books. This book is very detailed but written as a narrative, which I think is very appealing to elementary aged children. It provides an inside look at what it would be like to get inside the castle as a friend and then as a foe. The various defense mechanisms of the castle are described, as well as the various rooms and areas of the castle. Louise’s favorite detail (which she later recounted to Steady Eddie) is that hay was commonly used for toilet paper in these Medieval castles. Color illustrations are both detailed and emotive for a nonfiction book, and a glossary and sketch help identify all the parts of the castle.
For the record, I’m really not sure to whom to give the author attribution for this book. I’m assuming that Sheila Keenan actually wrote this one based on David Macaulay‘s earlier, more detailed work. I don’t consider myself much of an expert when it comes to beginning readers, but if this book is a representative of the genre, I might need to give them a second glance. Highly Recommended. (MacMillan, 2012)