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Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine Hardcover – May 6, 2014
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From School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—In delightful rhyming prose, Whelan brings history to life recounting an amusing anecdote of Queen Victoria and her bathing machine (currently on display at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight). One hot summer day, the British queen longs to take a refreshing dip in the sea, but her lady-in-waiting is scandalized. "It would be a disgrace/to see more of the queen than her hands and her face." Victoria's devoted husband, Albert, gives all his genius to the problem, promising to come up with a way to transport her unseen from the beach to the water. He discards his first idea involving a catapult, but inspiration strikes in the middle of the night. "Just after midnight/Albert sprang from the bed./A brilliant idea/had come to his head." He starts working on his invention the next morning, constructing a portable dressing room on wheels. Impressed and excited, Victoria dons her bathing suit inside the clever contraption and the bathing machine is then rolled into the sea, whereupon she dives right into the surf and indulges in a glorious swim. The digital artwork deftly portrays the loving relationship shared by Victoria and Albert. Comical details and the inclusion of the royal couple's nine mischievous children in many of the scenes add to the fun. For a royal day out at the library, pair this outstanding title with Celeste Davidson Mannis's The Queen's Progress (Viking, 2003).—Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston, MA
*Starred Review* Poor Queen Victoria gazes longingly at the sea from her balcony while being tightened into a sweaty corset and petticoats at the start of this lilting picture book from the author of Small Acts of Amazing Courage (2011). It would be indecent, after all, “to see more of the queen than her hands and her face,” but taking a dip in her full regalia would mean a quick trip to the seafloor. How can the queen enjoy a summer swim while still retaining her royal modesty? After abandoning his idea of a catapult to fling Her Majesty into the ocean, industrious Prince Albert devises a cart to be wheeled into the surf, so Victoria can change into her bathing costume and step into the water hidden from nosy onlookers. Carpenter’s jaunty illustrations, digitally rendered line drawings with colorful washes, depict the hot, uncomfortable queen surrounded by her beloved, rambunctious gaggle of children, who all pitch in to help build Albert’s invention. Based on Prince Albert’s real invention (a photo of the bathing machine and a brief biography of Queen Victoria is appended), this swingy, silly story in rhyming couplets offers a cheery glimpse into the life of a queen and a charming lesson on how necessity is the mother of invention. The informative author’s note and bibliography lead readers on to more. Grades K-3. --Sarah Hunter
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