Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Royal Disappointment

by Kathryn Lasky
by Carolyn Meyer

 One of the librarians in the children's section has been encouraging us to try some books in this series. Sunshine wanted to read one so I thought I would preview the two that I most recognized as Catholic queens.

I wanted to like these books, really I did. I was even willing to forgive some of the stilted writing. If you remember those writing exercises from middle school days where you had to write a journal as a person from history, you will know what I mean. A journal or diary format allows for jumps in time and place without doing the in between work, but it means that every other chapter will start with "Let me tell you what happened last night..." or "You won't believe what just happened...." I said I was willing to forgive some, but I guess that writing style really doesn't suit my tastes. Maybe a child would enjoy it better.

One of my gripes regarding both of these stories is that the queens and kings of old didn't always live up to the high moral standards we like to think they did. Mistresses, vanity, marriage for political gain, manipulation, murder, etc.... According to Amazon, these books are suggested for ages 9-12 but I don't think that some of those adult subjects are appropriate for children of that age. My girls are still happy thinking that princesses wear beautiful dresses, marry their true loves and live happily ever after. I'm not ready to color that fantasy just yet with the harsh shades of reality. I could just save these for my kids when they get older, but I can guarantee you that the writing level would bore an older child within a few pages.

Also, while I can't say that these two books were disrespectful to the Catholic Church, I would be really surprised if the authors were Catholics themselves. I'm not sure why, but I get that feeling. I tried to find some information in their bios and couldn't. (Kathryn Lasky also wrote The Librarian Who Measured the Earth, in case her name sounded familiar to some of you.) Kristina's interest in the Catholic faith is mentioned in the story. Her conversion to Catholicism is revealed in the epilogue along with this:
Historians argue that, although she is the most discussed of all queens in history, second only to Cleopatra, Kristina actually achieved very little during her brief reign. But present-day admirers describe Kristina as a feminist and a rebel, a woman with radical ideas who rejected feminine ideals of her time.
The story about Mary, Queen of Scots, doesn't have the same feminist bent, shows Mary as a practicing Catholic and in fact ends just before she makes her First Holy Communion. It's the parts involving the King's mistress who was more beloved than the Queen by all of the children and the people of France and a few other scenes that I find to be inappropriate for my 9-12 year olds to read right now.


  1. Thank you so much for writing up this review. Years ago when I was a substitute teacher I remember the girls in 5-8th grade going nuts over this particular series of books. I was contemplating ordering some of the stories for my daughter who is nearly nine, but I think I will have to reconsider.

  2. We have a bunch of these from my oldest. She wants to keep them, but I did throw away the one on Elizabeth. She was portrayed as such a wonderful person, and she probably was as a child, but I don't think we need to perpetuate the myth that she remained that way.

    I'll have to look and see if we have Mary Queen of Scots.


Thank you for sharing your thoughts and yourself!