Monday, June 9, 2014

Mini Review: Eleanor: Crown Jewel of Aquitaine by Kristiana Gregory

Release Date: September 1, 2002
Publisher: Scholastic 
Pages: 188
Received: Library
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Royal Diaries series 

This book is gross.

You know how sometimes you can read a historical fiction book and not really feel like you're IN the time period? Yeah, not this book.

Hats off to Kristiana Gregory because this lady nails the historical time period despite the thoroughly modern middle grade voice used for Eleanor (complete with groan-inducing "diary I must hide you in a clever place!" thoughts scattered throughout the book. I swear these diary book heroines spend 1/4 of the pages talking about hiding their diary).

Mostly Kristiana Gregory accomplishes this sense of "place" by throwing in every random bit of disgusting 12th century detail from parasitic worms to bathroom accommodations. You can also play a rousing game of 1000 Ways to Die in Medieval Europe! because, holy cow, red shirts abounded in this book.

On the plus side, all these bits of barf-inducing gore totally made me spend at least three hours on Wikipedia looking up all the historical bits Kristiana Gregory threw in (Wikipedia confirms them, btw, though I still haven't found that eye worm thing described in quite that way. Oh, and that reminds me, Ms. Gregory, mind explaining to my students why I was gagging in the library?). 

But, hey, what do I expect from a book set in the 1100s? Those were gross times and life was definitely cheap. So points to Kristiana Gregory for keeping it real and packing in a ton of historical details between covert diary stashings (and even managing to combine the two! Flea ridden diaries, yay!). 

And, ya know, I know it was a total diary gimmick, but I SO wanted Eleanor to snoop in her sister's diary. Which is to say, I was getting pretty into these characters and I'll be the first to say I'm shocked because they weren't written with that much depth, but I was still totally invested.

Of course, like all these Royal Diaries books, this one ended right before the good stuff really started. But that's necessary because all the good stuff is hardly fodder for middle grade books. Still, these books serve their purpose better than I would have ever expected.

Bottom line

Packed with historical detail, the Royal Diaries series is an excellent way to read about the early years of great historical figures (years often skipped over in adult books).

Don't expect great depth of characterization or to know the real Eleanor (or any of the historical protagonists in this series) because she's written with the voice of a modern middle grade girl (albeit one expected to do needlepoint and marry for political gain).

But that's ok, because as an introduction to Eleanor's childhood and her world, this book definitely serves its purpose. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Have you read any books about Eleanor?

Looking for another book like this?
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  1. Thanks for reviewing this! We have a lot of these in my library but I have never gotten one read. Might have to give it a try or just use this review for book talks next fall! :)

  2. I used to devour these when I was younger! I think I might pick some of them again, especially Elisabeth. Great review!

  3. OOOH, this is like a throwback to my middle school days!!! The series is definitely a good intro to historical fiction.

  4. "I swear these diary book heroines spend 1/4 of the pages talking about hiding their diary" Bahahahaha! I literally LOL'd there. :D

    I need to recommend this book next year to my 12-13 year old students. They would loooove the gross/gag factor. I'll have to see if I can find a used copy for my classroom library!

    Lauren @ Wordy Hughes


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