Part of National Geographic's "World History Biographies" series, this beautifully illustrated book gives a detailed yet straightforward account of Joan's life. From the beginning we see Joan as a kind, well-behaved girl born into a loving family during a difficult time--the Hundred Years' War between France and England. The author beautifully integrates into the narrative a variety of facts of the period, even if they are not specifically known about Joan, such as the types of chores girls would have had, the types of toys she may have played with, and what was expected of her, thus helping to bring her to life for the reader. She and her siblings most likely helped work on the family farm but Joan, pious at an early age, was known to sneak off and visit a shrine in a nearby town. It came as no great surprise, then, that she heard voices of saints telling her to lead an army against the English. Eventually securing the backing of the political leaders of the day, Joan did indeed lead troops into battle. Despite her victories in barbaric situations, she was captured and, because the English feared her strong image, was tried in a biased church court and burned at the stake before reaching twenty years of age. A time line running continuously along the bottom of the pages helps put the text and pictures into historical context. A comprehensive glossary and index make this a useful book for research. Reviewer: Kathryn Erskine
Joan of Arc: The Teenager Who Saved Her Nationby Philip Wilkinson
Around 1412, a baby girl was born in the village of Domrémy who would change France forever. A farmer’s daughter, she seemed destined for an unremarkable life. But as the dramatic narrative of this World History Biography reveals, Joan’s life was anything but ordinary. By the age of 13, she knew her destiny—to drive the English invaders… See more details below
Around 1412, a baby girl was born in the village of Domrémy who would change France forever. A farmer’s daughter, she seemed destined for an unremarkable life. But as the dramatic narrative of this World History Biography reveals, Joan’s life was anything but ordinary. By the age of 13, she knew her destiny—to drive the English invaders from France. By 17, she had led an army to victory at Orléans. Captured in battle, and too poor to be ransomed, Joan was burned at the stake before her 20th birthday.
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These two biographies about Joan of Arc and Isaac Newton are prime examples of attractive nonfiction that should particularly appeal to reluctant readers working on school reports. Each book contains illustrations or photos on almost every page, and, more important, the information is carefully divided into digestible portions, such that no one "chapter" extends beyond a two-page spread. A running chronology, containing both milestones in the subject's life as well as relevant historical events, borders the bottom edge of the pages, and call-out boxes define terms or elaborate on events mentioned in the main body of the text. Occasionally Joan of Arc dips a little too far into informality; for instance, the reader is told that when Pierre Cauchon taunted Joan at her trial, she "got him back" by responding in kind. For the most part, however, both books use vocabulary that is neither simplistic nor intimidating, and while the authors' admiration for their subjects is evident, they maintain appropriate objectivity. In Joan of Arc, for example, Wilkinson states matter-of-factly that Joan sincerely believed that she heard voices but notes that the strong religious beliefs of the time meant that more people were inclined to believe her than might be the case today. Similarly Steele describes Isaac Newton's irritable and overly sensitive personality in addition to his scientific genius. Both authors are also careful to note when a particular piece of information cannot be confirmed. The most obvious example is the story of Newton and the now-legendary apple that might have inspired him to investigate the concept of gravity, but the authors alsofrequently state that Joan or Isaac "may have" or "most likely would have" done something based on the living conditions known to exist during the relevant time periods. Overall these biographies, which also include books on Anne Frank, Wofgang Amadeus Mozart, Nelson Mandela, and Mao Zedong, will hopefully show young adults in school and public libraries that research does not always have to be tedious or difficult. Reviewer: Amy Sisson
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)
These colorful, appealing biographies are attractively illustrated and pleasingly presented. The books are divided chronologically into four sections; each consists of three to four chapters and a historical segment, thus covering the lives and the times of their subjects. Dates, highlighted across the bottom of pages in a colorful band, note biographical points of reference and historical events. The writing is competent, though lacking spark or flair, and covers all the essentials. Anne Frank and Joan of Arc both contain incorrect dates and Anne Frank presumes knowledge of Judaism; Newton is the best of the three. Many other titles are available on these individuals, although an appallingly high percentage are riddled with errors. Kathleen Krull's Isaac Newton (Viking, 2006) lacks Steele's excellent visuals but is lively and entertaining. Diane Stanley's Joan of Arc (Morrow, 1998) provides a full, accurate narrative in a picture-book format. Johanna Hurwitz's Anne Frank: Life in Hiding (HarperCollins, 1993 ), Gene Brown's Anne Frank: Child of the Holocaust (Gale, 1993), and Ruud Van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven's Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary (Viking, 1993 ) are all helpful (the last is the best illustrated).
Ann W. MooreCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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