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Review of Queen Victoria’s 
Bathing Machine

whelan_queen victoria's bathing machineQueen Victoria’s Bathing Machine
by Gloria Whelan; 
illus. by Nancy Carpenter
Primary    Wiseman/Simon    40 pp.
4/14    978-1-4169-2753-2    $17.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-4424-5885-7    $12.99

How could Queen Victoria get into the sea on a hot day? Modesty decreed that she mustn’t be seen in her bathing costume. It’s Prince Albert to the rescue with a queen-sized bathing machine — large enough to fit the queen and her lady-in-waiting, and with wheels to roll it into the sea, where the waters would conceal Her Majesty. This entertaining story nicely encapsulates a curious bit of social history, though its glimpse of the royal family is as much fantastical as realistic, with a jaunty tall-tale tone governing a rhymed text (delighted with his creation, Prince Albert crows, “Let me tell you, my dear, what I propose. / You enter the back door wearing all of your clothes. / Off comes your dress, off come your rings, / off come all those unmentionable things”). Carpenter ably limns eight or so children in lively attendance, riding globes or peering through telescopes while Albert studies catapults or “old wars both Spartan and Punic.” The stifling frills and furbelows of Victorian dress; the loving couple’s delight in each other; and jacket art of the queen frolicking underwater in her voluminous black swimming costume, a minnow in her crown — Carpenter renders each in comical detail. A concluding note features a present-day photo of the commodious vehicle. A bibliography of Victoriana for various ages is appended.

From the March/April 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Joanna Rudge Long About Joanna Rudge Long

Joanna Rudge Long is former editor of Kirkus Reviews and a frequent lecturer on children’s books.

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