Over the weekend, my boys and I were enchanted by the six books that comprise The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses, written by Shirin Yim Bridges, and illustrated by Albert Nguyen (Goosebottom Books, 2010). Each book tells of a different princess, how she gained power, and what she did with it. And each book taught us something new, and kept us engrossed from start to finish.
Important Note: Mothers of sons--don't be put off by the "girls" and the "princesses" of the title. These are books that my boys (10 and 7) loved--they begged me to keep reading, and were sad when we reached the last book!
Not only do these books tell the stories of woman you might never have heard of (but who were really important! who did great things! who should have gotten more page time in the history books!), the writing is spot on for young readers--a slightly wry authorial voice, tricky concepts and vocabulary words nicely explained, and, more generally, swinging story telling, interspersed with kid friendly sections describing what they wore and what they ate.
The series begins with Hatshepsut of Egypt, the woman who became Pharaoh. We had certainly heard of her before, but still were interested in the details of her life.The next three princesses, though, were new to all of us. Artemisia, ruler of the Persian vassal state of Caria (in modern Turkey) who commanded a flotilla of ships in Xerxes' war against ancient Greece, Sorghaghtani of Mongolia, who effectively ruled the homeland of the Mongol empire, and Qutlugh Terkan Khatun of Kirman, responsible for the golden age of her country (part of the 13th/14th century Il Kahnate in what is Iran today). Three strong, effective women whose accomplishments were truly remarkable.
Next in the series comes Isabella of Castile (the one who sent Columbus off exploring), and although I had certainly heard of her, I needed reminding about what she had done--driving the Moors from Grenada, and launching the Spanish Inquisition. Not such a nice princess.
The final book features Nur Jahan of India, who was effectively the ruler of the Moghul empire of India in the early 17th century, and who, while riding on an elephant, inside a howdah, shot and killed four tigers with only six bullets. She did other things too--like others of these women, she put her keen intelligence to work promoting trade and efficiency.
I am so very pleased to have been able to share this series with my boys--our knowledge of history and geography went up several notches (for instance, the Moghul Empire was only lightly touched on in my education, and I don't think I'd ever heard of the Il Khanate before). And more generally, I think it's great that they have more powerful women in their mental map of the past.
I wish the publisher had included a bit more back matter of supplemental facts, sources for the information, and where to go to see more pictures and find out more...but mainly this is just because my curiosity has been well and truly piqued! (And I wish Artemisia hadn't been made a blond--both unnecessary and unlikely. Sigh).
But what I really truly hope for is that there will be more books in the series--with more great princesses I've never heard about, from places that weren't front and center in my school education! This series truly fills an educational void (it would have made Third Grade Biography Breakfast so much more interesting if my son's school had had these!!!), and they are great books to share with your kids as read-alouds. I sincerely recommend them (but if you can only get one, my favorite is Sorghaghtani).
Thank you very much, Goosebottom Books, for the review copies.
Today's Non-Fiction Monday round-up is at The Cat and the Fiddle!