Castle: How It Works
written by David Macaulay with Sheila Keenan
Source: Orange County Public Library
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Dragons are a big deal in my classroom. Kids like to draw them and then pretend they are riding them or fighting them during recess. So if you have students who are interested in this area of fantasy literature, they will connect to Castle: How It Works. The book starts off from the point of view of someone going into the castle. There are many levels of protection including an outer wall and an inner wall. In the classroom, you could compare the security employed in this era with what we do today to protect our homes. Once inside, the reader sees many people performing tasks necessary to the life of the castle. A blacksmith is making a horseshoe while a cook starts a fire in the kitchen. Cutaways show the lord of the castle in one tower with his family. I like the details, like the throwing of herbs on the floor to improve the smell, that provide information about daily life. Students will find the description of "medieval potty life" amusing and fascinating. Another critical part of this book for teachers is the vocabulary that will be picked up by young readers. One word that they will latch onto is siege. This comes into play as an invading army attempts to take over the castle in the latter part of the book. Readers will be engrossed with the attack and the repelling of it.
As Travis Jonker points out in his review of this book, there is not a ton of nonfiction for early readers. I think advanced second grade readers who are interested in soldiers or medieval life will definitely take to Castle.
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