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Last year marked the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London. Those centuries saw London rebuild from tragic destruction…

…to the phenomenal city she is today.

A gorgeous book was published to commemorate the fire. That prompted me to scope out some other great titles available to those of us on this side of the pond, helping us explore the early history of our friends the Brits. The starting point of our journey today will be 1666 and we’ll travel farther back in time from there.

The Great Fire of London, written by Emma Adams, illustrated by James Weston Lewis
published in 2016 by Wayland

The striking illustrations in this book arrest our attention straight from the cover image to the final page. Phenomenal!

Walk through the streets of London during the terrifically hot summer of 1666, and witness the progress of the terrible conflagration that began in a baker’s oven and roared through the city over the next days.

Read excerpts from journals, meet Christopher Wren, discover the changes to firefighting that occurred as a result of the ruination, learn of the reconstruction to famous buildings — all in a concise, riveting narrative. History made eminently fascinating for ages 6 and up.

If this makes you hanker for a longer historical fiction account of the Great Fire, we enjoyed Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. It’s a great read/read-aloud for ages 8 and older. Out of print, but you can find copies in some libraries or buy from third party sellers on Amazon.

The Queen’s Progress: An Elizabethan Alphabet, written by Celeste Davidson Mannis, illustrations by Bagraim Ibatoulline
published in 2003 by Viking

Elizabeth I, Good Queen Bess, reigned from 1558 to 1603, giving her name to a dazzling era of culture and prosperity. This fascinating book about her is structured as an alphabet book, but don’t be fooled! Its rich content suits readers ages 7 through much older.

Every summer Queen Elizabeth took a holiday known as the royal progress. The queen, her courtiers, and hundreds of attendants left London in a caravan that stretched as far as the eye could see.” What made up this spectacular procession? What festivities took place along the way? Where did she stay? How did they feast? Who were her courtiers?

Packed with glittering detail, illustrated by one of the masters who takes us by the hand and plumps us down in the middle of Elizabethan England, this is a gem of a history book.

The Tudors: Kings, Queens, Scribes and Ferrets!, written and illustrated by Marcia Williams
published in 2016 by Candlewick Press

Stepping farther back still…Elizabeth I was the last of the Tudors, a line of royalty whose rule began in 1485 with the crowning of Henry VII.

Marcia Williams’ jolly cartoon style makes the history of those 120 years most-appealing and accessible to young elementary children. Her colorful panels introduce all the Tudors plus a few extras such as Shakespeare and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Running along the bottom of the pages we witness the lives of the commoners. And a snappy little ferret named Smudge gives a running account from his point of view along the margins.

A jumble of fun that delivers a whole lot of information.

For more books specifically about Shakespeare, see my post: hey nonny nonny! ’tis Shakespeare’s birthday

Now let’s take a big leap back in time…

Beowulf: A Hero’s Tale Retold, written and illustrated by James Rumford
published in 2007 by Houghton Mifflin

Around the year 800, an epic poem about a hero named Beowulf was written down in the Anglo-Saxon language. A couple of centuries passed, England was conquered by the folks across the Channel, and the enormous changes to the Saxons’ language meant that soon very few could read that Olde English account.

Thankfully, some scholars delved into those decrepit manuscripts and brought Beowulf back to us in the early 1800s. This excellent retelling by James Rumford pays homage to its language of origin by using only words that can be traced back to ancient Anglo-Saxon. What a fabulous idea!  History and linguistics in one!

Rumford’s vigorous illustrations exude the warring spirit of this tumultuous, hair-raising struggle. A great introduction for brave children ages 7 and up.

The Secrets of Stonehenge, by Mick Manning and Brita Granström
published in 2013 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

With this final book, we carom all the way back to Stone-Age Britain, some 10,000 years in the past, as we trace the mysteries and secrets of Stonehenge.

What was happening on this piece of wild land we now call the Salisbury Plain all those ages ago? What gods and goddesses did those ancient people worship? What is a “henge” anyway? When did people start constructing this one, and why?

How did they transport such mammoth stones? How did they set them in position? What archaeological discoveries at Stonehenge are revealing the secrets to its past?

Brief, clear text,  juicy tidbits of information in side-bars, and breezy, full-page, colorful illustrations will draw children as young as 5 into these questions and curiosities about the past.

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the nine lives of jacob tibbs cover imageThe Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs, by Cylin Busby, illustrated by Gerald Kelley
published in 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf

Does the cat on the cover of this book make you think purry, fuzzy thoughts? Warm as toast thoughts? Does he conjure up domestic scenes of warm firesides?

Well, banish those notions because this is a nautical cat who leads a hair-raising, stormy existence on a clipper ship in the 1830s. And those nine lives of his? Good thing he’s got every one of them!the nine lives of jacob tibbs illustration gerald kelley

His name is Jacob Tibbs and he’s the runt son of one of the keenest, most faithful mousers Captain Natick has ever known. His mother, Mrs. Tibbs, is an essential crew-member of the Melissa Rae where she not only controls the vermin population, but has an uncanny knack of sensing approaching storms and warning her captain. She’s a source of good luck to a boatload of superstitious sailors.

Jacob, however, looks to be a bit of a disappointment. Puny and bumbling. Hardly able to keep his balance on the pitching ship. Smaller than the nine lives of jacob tibbs illustration3 gerald kelleythe rats he’s supposed to exterminate. With four unlucky white paws, no one really wants him aboard.

Calamity strikes Jacob’s life early, leaving him to prove himself a worthy ship’s cat, and he needs every ounce of moxie his tiny body can muster. For this is a star-crossed journey if there ever was one, replete with deadly storms, grievous injuries, mutiny, and cold despair. 

 Having the cat narrate the story does soften this from other sea yarns such as Armstrong Sperry’s All Sail Set. Still, there are some gruesome play-by-plays of Jacob killing his prey that made me shudder a bit, and quite a bit of general nastiness from rogue sailors and such. I’d try it with ages 9 and up.

the nine lives of jacob tibbs illustration2 gerald kelley

It’s lightly illustrated with atmospheric, black-and-white drawings by Gerald Kelley. The ending was a little abrupt for my taste, but all told, it’s a wicked-good seafaring adventure and not so many of those are being written just now. 262 pages.

Trundling further into murder and mayhem is this fabulous, Dickensian tale:

smith cover imageSmith: The Story of a Pickpocket, by Leon Garfield
first published in 1967; published by The New York Review Children’s Collection in 2013

Set in 18th-century London, this gripping mystery-adventure revolves around Smith, a cunning 12-year-old boy who makes his living by picking pockets, then disappearing like a whisper of fog before his unlucky victims have the faintest notion of his presence.

One day Smith picks the bulging pocket of a gentleman who is shortly thereafter murdered. Dread seizes Smith as he realizes that the document he purloined is apparently valuable enough to kill for. What has he got his hands on? There’s no way of knowing, for Smith cannot read.ot21

Good fortune and calamity yank Smith one way and the other as he tries to evade the chilling men in brown who would kill him in a flash to get ahold of the papers. Smith is desperate to learn what these documents are and how he can turn them to his great advantage. Who can he trust to help him, and who are actually wolves in sheep’s clothing?

Leon Garfield was a brilliant writer with a superlative command of the English language. This classic work is not written in an easy, contemporary style, yet it reads in a gorgeous cadence. It’s an outstanding choice for reading aloud or for handing to

This photograph shows the entrance of The Oxford Arms Inn which stood in a short lane leading out of the west side of Warwick Lane, where this photograph was taken from. The inn was demolished in 1878. This is one of a collection of images commissioned by the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London to record historic buildings that were being threatened with demolition.

middle-graders who aren’t afraid of a challenging vocabulary.

Garfield unleashes a host of dark, criminal forces against young Smith. The story is peppered with murderers, highwaymen, charlatans, and the assorted ruffian, so expect that.

At the same time, what is so stunning is that it’s not merely an adventure. Instead, the author crafts his flawed characters to reveal rich truths about human nature. One character in particular — an old, blind, barrister — wavers between mercy and harshness, belief and distrust, eventually owning his pitiless understanding of the law in a moving, revelatory scene.

All of this makes the book a great read for adults, and an excellent choice for book clubs for ages 11 and up.

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Because it’s pool time!

swimming-swimming cover image

Swimming, Swimming, lyrics from an old song, illustrated by Gary Clement
published in 2015 by Groundwood Books

Big, bold, sunny-day illustrations carry us along an energetic run-through of this classic children’s song.

swimming swimming illustration gary clements

If you don’t know the actions and the take-away-a-line-at-a-time part, I believe you can find them at groundwoodbooks.com/swimalong. Your kids will be singing it all summer long. Ages 2 and up.

Brand new and jazzy for beginning readers

what this story needs is a pig in a wig cover image

What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig, written and illustrated by Emma J. Virján
published in 2015 by Harper

If your child can read the title, he’s proficient enough to read this snappy new story featuring…a pig in a wig.

what this story needs is a pig in a wig illustration virjan

Sonic-boom colors. Mo Willem-esque illustrations. Friendly, happy story. A watery winner!

For fans and non-fans of creepy-crawlies

some bugs cover image

Some Bugs, written by Angela DiTerlizzi, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel
published in 2014 by Beach Lane Books

Let’s face it: summer is a buggy time. 

some bugs interior diterlizzi and wenzel

This upbeat catalogue of bugs is just the ticket to make them seem intriguing instead of irritating. Minimal words. Bold-as-brass pictures. Colorful and catchy…plus you learn the names of lots of exciting insects. Ages 2 and up.

A curious blast of poetry

beastly verse cover image

Beastly Verse, various poets, illustrated by JooHee Yoon
published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books

 Yoon’s cheerful, playful illustrations completely dominate these pages, some of which fold out to accommodate her weirdly-wonderful, capacious creatures.

This is a Spangled Pandemonium

This is a Spangled Pandemonium

Unconventional art, paired with classic animal-poems from the likes of Lewis Carroll, William Blake, and Christina Rossetti. A smashing success to share with ages 3 to 100.

Tea and crumpets, anyone?

london calls cover image

London Calls!, by Gabby Dawnay, illustrated by Alex Barrow
published in 2014 by Tate Publishing

Dash along with Pearl and Granny Rose on a whirlwind tour of London.

london calls interior dawnay and barrow

The rhyming text merrily skips along, zigging and zagging among charming illustrations of everything from the London Eye to the Tube to Kensington Gardens. If you love London, I promise you will like this little book. Ages 4 and up.

Completely clever way-more-than-an-alphabet book

take away the a cover image

Take Away the A: An Alphabeast of a Book!, written by Michaël Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
published in 2014 by Enchanted Lion Books

What happens when letters up and go missing?

Well, without the D, the dice are ice!

take away the a interior2 escoffier and digiacomo

Without the C, a chair has hair!

take away the a interior escoffier and digiacomo

26 extremely clever pages, especially fun for newish readers.

Calling Sherlock!

where's the pair cover image

Where’s the Pair?: A Spotting Book, written and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup
published in 2015 by Big Picture Press

Can you spot which two are precisely a pair?

where's the pair illustration britta teckentrup

That’s the game on every page of this tricky, tantalizing book. These puzzlers are not for amateur sleuths! Try them with ages 5 and up, with maybe a bit of help to get started.

Classic Scandinavian lore

the terrible troll-bird cover image

The Terrible Troll-Bird, written and illustrated by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire
originally published in 1976; reissued by The New York Review  Children’s Collection in 2007

I could write a whole post on this one. 

the terrible troll bird illustration d'aulaire

The glorious troll-ish landscape of Scandinavian folklore, combined with the d’Aulaires magic touch at retelling and illustrating. Find out how Ola, Lina, Sina and Trina cope with the immense Troll Bird! Ages 6 and up.

Because it’s simply the best to sleep in a tent 

eddie's tent cover image

Eddie’s Tent and How to Go Camping, written and illustrated by Sarah Garland
published in 2015 by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Coming from one of my favorite UK author/illustrators, this charming story about a family camping trip.

eddie's tent illustration sarah garland

Tents. Hot Chocolate. Starry Skies. Snug Sleeping Bags. Roasted chocolate-stuffed bananas. Really, does it get any better?! Rev up for your camping trip or start dreaming of one when you read this gem. Ages 3 and up.

Of Bicycles and Neighborliness

the red bicycle cover image

The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle, written by Jude Isabella, illustrated by Simone Shin
published in 2015 by Citizen Kid/Kids Can Press

Another winner coming out of the Canadian Citizen Kid line. This time, we see how the donation of a bicycle changes the lives of people across the world.

the red bicycle interior jude isabella and simone shin

Follow the bike as it changes hands and see the kind of good you can do when you act like a good neighbor to people you never even meet. A lengthy account for ages 5 or 6 and up, that could be read in installments if necessary.

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the great trouble cover imageThe Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel, by Deborah Hopkinson
published in 2013 by Alfred A. Knopf

“It’s like breathin’ soup,” Abel Cooper complained, same as he had every morning for a week. “Hot, stinkin’ soup.”

“Any errands for later, Mr. Cooper?” I asked the foreman as I mopped the brewery floor.

“In this heat? No, I’ll not send you out. There’s bad air out there. Poison,” he declared, wiping his forehead. “Bad air brings trouble.”
“What kind of trouble, sir?”
“Disease, lad. Since ancient times, folks have known cholera comes from the pump from debategraph dot orgthat bad air — what they call miasma — is the cause of disease..You name it: measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, and worst of all, the blue death…It’s obvious when you think on it, ain’t it? Bad smells cause bad things.”

Eel, age 12, is an orphan in 1854 London. Difficulties thick as the oozy muck on the riverbank seem to bog him down — mudlarking by the Thames to find the odd bit to sell, seeking secure wages from a better job so he can make his secretive payments on time, and avoiding at all costs the odious Fisheye Bill Tyler.

Lately he’s had a little string of luck. He’s found a good position and lodgings with Abel Cooper at the Lion Brewery, and

Dr. John Snow

Dr. John Snow

he’s taking care of a menagerie of animals for an important man, Dr. John Snow.

When a cholera epidemic  — the blue death — hits the neighborhood, though, things begin looking grim. Dr.  Snow seems to believe something other than the foul air is causing these deaths, but he needs Eel’s help to prove his newfangled theory. Will the two of them locate the data they need in time to save many more deaths, and can Eel outfox Fisheye Bill at the same time?

This Dickensian novel is a gripping, fascinating piece of historical-fiction! Eel and his good friend Florrie

The Broad Street pump in London, across from the John Snow Pub

The Broad Street pump in London, across from the John Snow Pub

steal our hearts as they struggle for survival in their impoverished, diasese-ridden neighborhood. There’s adventure here, and mystery, sorrow and kindness and community, and an intriguing peek at the real Dr. Snow, who is known as the father of epidemiology — the study of how and why diseases spread. A number of other real characters come to life in this book as well, and Deborah Hopkinson provides extensive notes about them, about cholera in general, and about the Broad Street Cholera Epidemic itself at the close of her story.

Excellent story told by a fantastic writer, for ages 10 and up.

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charlotte in london cover imageCharlotte in London, by Joan MacPhail Knight, illustrations by Melissa Sweet

Charlotte Glidden is a (fictional) American girl, living in France in 1895. Her father moved the family there in order to study plein air painting under the great master, Claude Monet.

Now, her father is taking them on a jaunt to London. His plan is to spend several months painting his impressions of England. This provides Charlotte an incredible treasure trove of opportunities: viewing the sights of London, watching boat traffic on the Thames, attending fabulous dinner parties and teas with the likes of Henry James, marketing at Covent Garden and Piccadilly, the cotswoldsventuring into the Cotswolds, and meeting famous artists such as James Whistler, Sir John Lavery, Edwin Abbey, and above all, John Singer Sargent.

It is Mr. Sargent that they are most interested in, with Charlotte’s mother greatly desiring that he paint her portrait. As the Glidden family moves about England and the glittering circles of artists and collectors and

The Black Brook by John Singer Sargent

The Black Brook by John Singer Sargent

writers there, Charlotte learns more and more about the current art scene, and in particular about Sargent’s life, temperament, and painting genius.

This is, I believe, the fourth of the Charlotte books in which we meet artists and their worlds in such enchanting, creative stories.  Charlotte in Giverny meets Monet for the first time, in Paris she meets a number of the Impressionists, and in the midst of all this European living, she voyages to New York for a special exhibition. Her journals are the format of the books, and are full of the enthusiasm and delight of a young girl encountering these thrilling people and places.

Melissa Sweet’s collage art is perfect for the scrapbook look of these accounts. Color reproductions of masterpieces by the featured artists fit in alongside Sweet’s bright, charming watercolors and ephemera. The pages are a visual joy that draw us like a magnet into the lively, fascinating text.

charlotte in london illustration melissa sweet

These are fantastic introductions to the art of this period, with this book capturing as well the glories of England at the turn of the century. Included are short biographical entries on each featured artist and an author’s note clarifying what the fictional Charlotte would truly have encountered on such an expedition. It’s 64 profusely-illustrated pages long and will capture the interest of ages 7 and up — younger for some artistic souls.

Here’s the Amazon link:  Charlotte in London

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The Bumper Book of London:Everything You Need to Know about London and More, by Becky Jones and Clare Lewis with drawings by (are you ready for this?) Edward, Isabella and Ottoline Martin, Alex, Harry and Freddie Crichton-Miller, and William and James Taylor

First of all, it’s red.  Gorgeous, double-decker-bus red.

Next, it’s got lovely, creamy pages, crammed with beautiful colors that playfully romp about in letterings and illustrations and wiggly borders.

Then, there’s the contents.  Of course, this should have come first, being an Informative Book…but this is the order you unfold this delightful package of goodness.  This book has a crazy amount of fascinating, helpful, happy, and at times quirky, information about London.  You get a brief history of London, given in short, snappy installments starting with Roman London, and continuing on through the Saxon and Viking eras, the Medieval ages, Tudor, Elizabethan, Stuart, Georgian, Regency, Victorian, Edwardian, and straight on through to Post-War London.  Let me just say that although this is a children’s book, it’s perfectly profitable for all of us grown-ups who don’t quite have our Wars of the Roses and “When did Guy Fawkes try to blow things up?” straight.  Brilliant.

Meanwhile, there’s loads of delicious scoops on everything from the Arts scene, to how Lyle’s Golden Syrup got its start, to the frost fairs that were once held on the Thames, to how many people ride the Tube on a given day (you won’t believe it!)  If you’re lucky enough to actually be visiting London, there are lists of What to See that correspond to each historic period, and bonus Why-Didn’t-We-Know-About-This-When-We-Were-There?? lists with titles like “best cake shops”,” best old-fashioned sweets shops”, “best secret gardens” and most dangerous of all, “best shops for children’s books.”

Really fun “London by the numbers” statistics, historic bits, interesting little asides, bios of London’s most famous folks, quirky trivia — and all charmingly illustrated by the gaggle of names I’ve listed at the top of this post who happen to be the children (mostly) of the mums who wrote the book.  Just fantastic.

Seriously, I would go to London again just to explore it with this book in hand.  Of course, I would go to London at the drop of a hat 🙂  Even if you can’t go, it’s a splendid introduction to one of the most awesome cities in the world for children through grown-ups.  My highest recommendation!

Here’s the Amazon link:  The Bumper Book of London: Everything You Need to Know about London and More

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The Olympics are coming, the Olympics are coming!  What a great moment for London!    I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us!  Now’s the perfect time to introduce children in your life to this outstanding city, so they can recognize the places and names they see and hear on the TV broadcasts.  Brew some tea, make a batch of scones, and settle in with...

 

A Walk in London, written and illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino

Follow a mom and young daughter as they tour London by double-decker bus, on foot, and ferry, through sunshine and, of course, rain, inside, outside, upstairs and down.  Salvatore Rubbino’s brilliant illustrations showcase the highlights of the city from Buckingham Palace to The Tower of London, Covent Garden to St. James’ Park, including a supercool, foldout panorama of the Thames.  The scenes are enlivened with scads of interesting people, traffic, birds, so there are no stodgy bits.

Narration by the young girl of the day’s comings and goings makes a pleasant, brief storyline, while smaller-print interesting tidbits are sprinkled throughout the pages giving us the inside scoop on everything from the dragons that guard The City to the number of diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies and pearls in the Imperial Crown.  You can learn quite a lot about London by reading through the whole book.

I looked at quite a few “these are the sights of London” books and this was my hands-down favorite.  I really love Rubbino’s illustrations — the pages are laid out with such appealing design, there’s a lot to spot in each page spread without an overly-busy feel, and he’s captured the same classic feel of M. Sasek (This is London) while updating the information.   I love the sense of bustle and discovery.  My only regret is the lack of any mention of the Underground.  Published just last year, this is the place to start in getting acquainted with London.

Through Time: London,  written by Richard Platt, illustrated by Manuela Cappon

Now that you’ve got your bearings in modern London, take a giant step back in time and watch London grow from its ancient origins to become one of the world’s greatest cities and host city for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Each two-page spread highlights London at a distinct moment in time, beginning with the wattle-and-daub encampment along the Thames in 3500 BC and moving on through the coming of the Romans, the revolt of Queen Boudicca, the Vikings, the Normans, the plague, Elizabethan London, the Great Fire, the Great Exhibition of 1851, the Blitz of WWII, construction of the 2012 Olympic venues, with numerous other stops along the way — 18 in all.

At each pause on the timeline, there are several brief, engaging paragraphs giving us the historical background.  The text is set upon a full-spread, beautiful illustration of the city at that time.  Small captions explaining details in the illustration are dotted about the page, and a few cameo illustrations focus our attention on close-up views of the goings on.  These colorful pages are rich in detail — the architecture, landscape, clothing, activities of each period in time are absolutely fascinating to pore over.  As you turn the pages, the passage of time is also shown in a small inset map showing the growth of the city along the Thames.

This book is part of Kingfisher’s gorgeous Through Time series.  Richard Platt is a multiple-award winning author who knows exactly how to bring history alive to children.  The riveting illustrations are by Manuela Cappon, who has done so much gorgeous non-fiction illustration from her studio in Florence, Italy.  By picking and choosing portions of the book, it could be accessible to children as young as 4; the book in its entirety is geared for mid-elementary and up.  Outstanding!

Dodsworth in London, written and illustrated by Tim Egan

Dodsworth the rat and his pal Duck are heading to London in this installment of Tim Egan’s delightful early-reader series.

Arriving in the middle of a London fog, their first stop is a cozy pub.  Although Dodsworth warns Duck against causing any of his usual shenanigans, Duck cannot seem to stay out of trouble and before you can say Bob’s your uncle, mayhem has ensued.  The best way to escape the pub’s irate customers is to hop on a double-decker bus.  But a mix-up separates the two, and in a case of mistaken identity, Dodsworth toursLondon with the Royal Duck instead of his own, impetuous friend.  However will they find one another in that great city?  And however do they wind up bunking with the queen at the palace?!



Featuring tea and crumpets, Scotland Yard, and charming retro-feel watercolors, this is a jolly good story that will tickle your funny bone while   taking you on a whirlwind tour of London.  For those who don’t know the series, Dodsworth is the sensible, straightman, and Duck is the havoc-causing comedic partner.  Together they manage to turn everything topsy turvy in fantastic locations such as New York City, Paris and Rome.  At about a 2nd-grade level, the sentences are short and straightforward, but the vocabulary is quite rich and of course sprinkled with common and proper nouns associated with the setting.  For a sturdy reader, they’re a refreshing, unusual read and they can certainly be read aloud to others.  If you’ve become familiar with London landmarks by other means, the story will be that much more enjoyable.

The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, the Bard — a wordless story by Gregory Rogers

An errant soccer ball…a tumbledown theater…a clock gone bonkers…and a small boy swept back in time, landing at none other than the Globe Theater, smack in the middle of one of Mr. Shakespeare’s plays — that’s the opening act in this fabulous story filled with chase scenes, hair-breadth escapes, a bear warmhearted as Baloo, one extremely- fortunate old baron, and all the splendor of Elizabethan England.

Mr. Shakespeare is not at all amused at the monumental disruption to his play and sets after our protagonist furiously.  While hiding from him, the boy happens upon a caged bear and kindly sets him free.  The two chums then set out to evade their pursuers and enjoy themselves.  The fashions, markets, and sights of Elizabethan London come to life as the two stroll across London Bridge, rescue an imprisoned baron from certain death, meet the Royal Barge on the Thames, and race through the narrow streets of London.

Page after page of action-packed, colorful, engaging illustrations masterfully tell the story.  Some pages soar with boisterous, full page pictures, while others feature  over a dozen smaller frames.   The sequencing and details are fantastic, the plucky boy will appeal to a wide age range and the bulky, protective bear provides the perfect capable, comforting companion.  This is the first in a series of books by Rogers; the second springs off of Midsummer Night’s Dream and the third explores a Vermeer painting and 17th C. Holland.  Catch them all, but for your London reading, start with this one.  Ages 4 and up.

The Tower of London, written and illustrated by Leonard Everett Fisher

For a bit more in depth history of London, still in picture book format, here’s an excellent account by a wonderful author/illustrator.

Fisher uses the Tower of London as his subject, beginning with the story of William the Conqueror who began construction of it in 1078.   Learn about its immense size, the kinds of rooms inside it, the Tower’s famous prisoners.  About 150 years later,  Henry III decided it would make a splendid palace.  As Henry’s home, the Tower housed leopards, a polar bear, and featured a secure moat.  Revolts, beheadings, plottings, murders …there’s a lot of sinister history to be learned surrounding the Tower.  On a happier note, it has also been the setting for a lavish wedding, a royal parade, and a refuge from catastrophe.

In short order Fisher touches on numerous monarchs and their use of the Tower.  He accompanies his narration with his exquisite black-and-white illustrations, loaded with historical detail — helmets and pikes, uniforms and crowns, peasants and prisoners and kings come to life in his beautiful, soft, robust drawings.  I’ve enjoyed many of Fisher’s books.  Never talking down, he writes and illustrates for intelligent, curious minds; this one is best for middle-elementary and up.

Here are Amazon links for all these luvvly jubbly books!

A Walk in London

Through Time: London

Dodsworth in London (A Dodsworth Book)

The Boy, The Bear, The Baron, The Bard (New York Times Best Illustrated Books (Awards))

Tower of London, The

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