Come to the Castle!: A Visit to a Castle in Thirteenth-Century England, by Linda Ashman, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Roaring Brook Press, 2009), invites the reader to travel back in time to the late medieval ages, where the Earl of Daftwood is holding a grand fest.
What is pleasure for the earl, in his comfortable status as lord of the manor, is the opposite for those underneath him, and we see his servants (including the noble Privy Lord, the cook, the herald) scurrying to pull the party together. It isn't that much fun to be a knight, in an overheated tin can, either. But let the feast begin!
"Prepare the Great Hall-
The banquet's tonight!
Arrange the old trestles;
Drape them in white.
The goblets must sparkle,
The silver must shine.
Oh no, dear-don't wash them!
Some spit will do fine."
I've always had a penchant for the medieval, and so can't help but rave over the loveliness of the book design, illustrations, and illuminated initials that make this book a gorgeous physical object. It drew my boys to it instantly, and they were very taken with the pictures (full of detail) and they were very interested in the illuminated letters, which they had never seen before in a children's book (incidentally, these might be a challenge for the young independent reader, since they can be hard to figure out the first time through). And, of course, they were very taken with the illustration of the privy.
As the quote above illustrates, the book is told in verse. I was rather doubtful about this, because reading it to myself, the words seemed a tad forced. But reading it aloud to the boys, things moved much more swimmingly, and we enjoyed it a lot (although I never did fall quite in love with the words).
In short, a beautiful and educational book, great for reading aloud, and, I hope, inspiring young artists to draw their own more detailed fantastically medieval settings.
Here's another review, from Abby (the) Librarian, and a cool podcast at Just One More Book!
For more non-fiction books, visit the Non-Fiction Monday Roundup at Book Scoops!