Monday, March 8, 2010

Catherine the Great: Empress of Russia

Vincent, Zu. 2009. Catherine the Great: Empress of Russia. New York: Scholastic.

For today's Non-Fiction Monday post, I'd like to highlight A Wicked History series, published by Franklin Watts, an imprint of Scholastic. Love history? Appreciate cunning? Tired of the usual biographies? Then, A Wicked History series may be your answer.

Catherine the Great is one of history's famous (infamous?) characters who fits the criteria for this engaging series. Catherine is a study in contrasts. She was an early proponent of the Enlightenment; she sought to free millions of Russian peasants from serfdom; she was a great patron of the arts - founding the renowned Hermitage museum. And yet, she overthrew Russia's lawful ruler, her husband; she is widely suspected of ordering her husband's murder; she put down peasant rebellions with an iron fist.

Zu Vincent's book examines both sides of Catherine's life, allowing the reader to draw his own conclusions. Skillful use of maps, period quotations, illustrations, and explanatory text box insets, Catherine the Great: Empress of Russia is a brief, attention-grabbing biography. A "Wicked Web" replaces the usual "family tree," and a "Timeline of Terror" replaces the more benign and generic timeline. This balanced book, however, does not dwell solely on the sensational (though readers, parents and teachers should expect the truth -including murder, villainy, and extra-marital activities).

A glossary, index, list of additional sources, and author's note with bibliography complete this well-researched book. A perfect choice for reluctant 'tweens and teens with biography assignments.

Attila the Hun, Henry VIII, King George III, and many other villains may be found in the series.
Best for middle and high school readers.

All of today's Non-Fiction Monday posts may be found at Lost Between the Pages. Be sure to check them out!


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