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We asked a fellow Vermonter, friend, and local historian - Lauren Pidgeon - to review some of her favorite books to share with Book Jam readers. Bonus -- she is a High Schooler and represents a different demographic than either "slightly" older Book Jam Lisa. There is an important fact relevant to her reviews -- Lauren volunteers each week doing research at the Norwich Historical Society. She recently worked with the 1865 diary of Mary Slack, a 15-year-old schoolgirl from our hometown of Norwich. Lauren's exploration of Mary's diary was recently featured in excellent blog posts - just click here to read. It was this initial "book" review by Lauren that inspired us to ask her to review some of her favorite books from more recent centuries for us.
Now, back to today's selections. We love the fact Lauren's book reviews speak to to finding books through overseas travel, relatives, and a trip to our town dump. (In Vermont Pre-Covid-19, book shacks at town dumps were excellent sources of books to treasure.) And all you teachers out there -- please note Lauren highlights a class from seven years prior at our local elementary school as part of her reviews; your work matters so much, even if you don't see or hear appreciation in the moment.
Victoria’s Daughters by Jerrold Packard (1999) - When I saw this book sitting on top of the pile of books my dad had found at the dump, I was instantly drawn to it. I love history. And, I especially love Victorian history; so of course, I had to read it. It’s a non-fiction book recounting the lives of Queen Victoria and her five daughters (her four sons are occasionally mentioned). I discovered how her daughters’ marriages spread Victoria’s influence around Europe. It was also interesting to see how Victoria impacted her children’s lives because she wasn’t the most stereotypical mother. Coincidentally, last summer I had actually made a family tree of Victoria and her children because I love making family trees and it was easy and incredibly interesting to research. I used this tree while I was reading the book, but the author has also provided a family tree at the beginning of the book. ~ Selected by Lauren
Horrible Histories by Terry Deary (assorted years) - The Horrible Histories series were the first history books I ever read. I had started watching the Horrible Histories TV series in England when I was 6 or 7 years old and I loved how funny and gory it was, but also how it taught me a lot. When I moved to America I wasn’t able to to watch Horrible Histories so instead I had my grandparents bring a huge box set of Horrible Histories books when they came to visit. I loved, and still do love, the way Terry Deary says he writes about “history with the nasty bits left in!” He satirizes people like Queen Victoria and Shakespeare and creates comical conversations between historical figures from all periods of history. ~ Selected by Lauren
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier (2009) - Remarkable Creatures is a historical fiction based on the life of Mary Anning, a young woman who finds some of the first fossils, and even whole dinosaurs, on the beach at Lyme Regis, England. The story is told by both Mary and another woman in the town who becomes interested in fossils and befriends Mary. When I visited Lyme Regis a few years ago, I had only heard of Mary Anning through kids books or maybe a brief lesson at school. Visiting her town made me see how important she was to natural history and I soon realized that hunting for fossils on the beach was a true talent. When I read this book, Mary Anning came to life as a young, poor girl who spent her days searching for fossils on the beach for money, not realizing the importance of her work. ~ Selected by Lauren
Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan (assorted years) - Studying Ancient Greece in Mr. Fenton’s 5th grade class was the highlight of all my years at the Marion Cross School. I especially loved reading the myths about the Gods. I would often imagine what it was like to be part of the big, crazy, and wonderful family of the Olympian Gods. Reading Percy Jackson for the first time let me see how cool it would be to actually be a part of the myths. I dreamed of going to Camp Half-Blood with Percy and Annabeth and taking part in their adventures. They fought titans, mythical monsters, and other Gods and made close bonds with their friends from camp. ~ Selected by Lauren