Skip to main content

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter



Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine is a new, non-fiction picture book by Gloria Whelan, superbly illustrated Nancy Carpenter. Whelan, who is now in her 90s, is the author of several books for young readers, many of which are historical fiction that take place all over the world. While I have only read a handful of her books, I have loved and been moved by each and every one. You can read my reviews here and scroll to the bottom of the review to see more of her titles. Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine is the first picture book by Whelan that I have read and it works as playful, rhyming story as well as a glimpse into an interesting period of English history. I'm not sure which part of the book I liked more - Whelan's rhyming text or her Author's Note at the end of the book. Both are filled with fascinating information.


When Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine we find the Queen gazing out at the cool, blue sea, uncomfortable in the many layers of clothing it was customary to wear at the time, whispering to herself, "How grand it would be to go for a swim." This wish causes her lady-in-waiting to collapse at the impropriety of it all, saying that it would "be a disgrace/ to see more of the queen than her hands and her face./ How would she get from the beach to the water/ without showing more of herself than she ought to?"



Hopefully this scene gives young readers who know nothing or little about the Victorian era an idea of the strict social customs of the time, especially for the queen. A loving and inventive husband, Prince Albert tells the queen that he will find a way to transport her to the water without being seen so that she can "dabble and splatter and swim like a fish." Being learned and bright, Albert is full of ideas, the first of which is a catapult that will send the Victoria into the sea. Telling her of this idea he says one of my favorite lines in the book, "Victoria, dear, it might be romantic/ to be launched from your window into the Atlantic./ Moving so quickly you would never show/ as much as a peek of your royal toe."



Victoria reminds Albert that the British do love to hunt and she would probably be shot out of the air in an instant. Happily, Prince Albert settles on the design for the bathing house and he, the queen and their children (who are seen boisterously playing in the background of every scene) begin to build a changing room on wheels with privacy curtains that would allow Victoria to be rolled to the edge of the water and slip into the water without being seen. In Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine the queen has a grand old time swimming about and is even spotted by sailors offshore who mistake her for a soup tureen before realizing that it is their queen.

Whelan's Author's Note adds in some wonderful details, like the fact that Victoria preferred the informal residences of Balmoral Castle and Osborne Home on the Isle of Wight (which Prince Albert designed) to the stuffy Buckingham Palace. She adored her nine children and especially liked sketching and painting them along with pressing flower, which she did when away from the Palace. Osborne House is on the Isle of Wight, which is where Prince Albert, who believed that bathing in the ocean was healthy, had this machine installed. After the queen's death, it was used as a chicken coop, but has since been restored and is on view at Osborne Beach. Queen Victoria was an avid diarist from an early age and Queen Elizabeth II has had all 43,000 pages of her journals placed online. Whelan also includes a brief list of books and websites for further reading.






Gloria Whelan's Other Books:



Winner of the National Book Award in 2000, Homeless Bird


The Impossible Journey and the sequel, Burying the Sun



Small Acts of Courage and the sequel,  All My Noble Dreams and then What Happens



Source: Review Copy

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!

Be…

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started books4yourkids.com in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …