CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 27. . . .March 14, 2014
Prince William & Kate Middleton is an information book that gives a basic introduction to the young royal couple. Recreational readers who like researching and writing will enjoy the suggested “Write a Biography” activity near the end. The book covers the families, early lives, courtship, and marriage of Kate and William, as well as a few facts about England. Kate’s pregnancy is mentioned, although not the birth of their son.
Although the title implies that Kate and William are both remarkable people, the focus is, perhaps inevitably, on William, which may be understandable as it is his proximity to the throne that has cast him and Kate into the spotlight and, to a certain extent, is the reason for the book’s existence. Less understandable is the Royal Family page which contains a succinct introduction to Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and Prince Harry, as well as Buckingham Palace. Whereas the paragraphs on Princes Philip, Charles, and Harry, mention their birth and lineage (excluding Harry, who is introduced elsewhere), the focus is on their interests and personal achievements, such as educational degrees, career, and awards founded. The paragraph on the Queen Elizabeth, however, is almost entirely devoted to the circumstances of her father’s ascent to the throne, with the introductory sentence devoted to her birth, and the concluding sentence a list of nations other than the UK of which Elizabeth is head of state.
The book is clearly laid out, with a list of contents at the beginning and clear topic titles where appropriate. The format is attractive and consistent in style without becoming boring. Some variations from the typical format draw the eye without becoming overwhelming, such as the “Thoughts from William and Kate” page which simulates quotations tacked onto a bulletin board. The illustrations, primarily colour photographs, are plentiful, well-incorporated, captioned, and sprinkled liberally throughout the book. There is also a small map showing England, although England is not further geographically located. The pages are formatted in an attractive, easy to read style. A timeline, glossary of key words, and an index are located at the back of the book. Words in the text that are printed in bold appear in the glossary. The definitions are clear and simple. Defined terms include “gap year”, “abdicated”, “paparazzi” and “heir.”
The tone is informative and positive towards its subjects. Controversial subjects are handled lightly: the difficulty of being royal and tracked by the media is covered; and the kerfuffle around certain photos taken of Kate on holiday are mentioned not in terms of content but as an example of “media overstepp[ing] its boundaries.” Specific terms are used, and difficult ones are defined in the glossary. The book, itself, is a good basic introduction to its topic, and deserves three stars rather than two and a half assigned in this review.
The “AV²” content (“added value; audio visual”), however, is disappointing. The promise of “content that supplements and complements” overstates what the online content actually contains. The activities online could be used effectively in a classroom setting as they are assignment-like. The activities are not creative, however; they emphasize knowledge of facts and journalism which may appeal to children who read information books for fun. One of the activities focused on setting a goal! The online content assumes an American audience as one of the activities encourages readers to write about their hometowns: one of the first directions is to identify the town in the world, country, and state. (Curiously, the book, itself, does not give such geographical detail: the map of England depicts no cities, nor is the continent of Europe mentioned.) Additional information is provided via two links (both to other online biographies of William and Kate, individually, neither of which has much new information) and two embedded videos of the couple. The rest of the content is a reiteration of part of what is in the book, which raises the question of why it exists. Nor can children read the book from the computer screen – an image of each page in the book is provided as a photograph, but it’s too small to be read. Overall, the online content is not creative and rather boring, and not up to the standard of the book, itself, which is visually pleasing, clear to read, and interesting.
The authors, Lauren Diemer and Heather Kissock, have both written a number of information books, both by themselves and with other co-authors. Diemer’s works include Squirrels (Backyard Animals series), Sears Tower (Structural Wonders series), Cows (Watch Them Grow series), and with Megan Cuthbert, Abraham Lincoln (Icons: History Makers series). Kissock’s credits include multiple titles in the “American Indian Art and Culture” series and the “Learn to Draw” series. Other titles include Pyramids of Giza (Virtual Field Trip), which she co-wrote with Sheelagh Matthews, and Stars (Looking at the Sky), with Linda Aspen-Baxter.
Janet Eastwood is a student in the Master of Children’s Literature program at the University of British Columbia.
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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.