In keeping with my fascination with the macabre, I took a small detour to some nonfiction this time. (I fully acknowledge that I need to read more nonfiction.)
This one of the slim volumes in Scholastic’s “A Wicked History” series.
Vlad the Impaler: The Real Count Dracula (A Wicked History) by Enid A. Goldberg & Norman Itzkowitz
Franklin Watts (September 2009)
Also available in the Wicked History Series:
As biographies go, Vlad was pretty straightforward. It’s clearly a series built on the premise of snaring readers with a bit of sensationalism. But, from the viewpoint of a teacher and librarian, I can’t say I completely disapprove.
Strengths: The publishers hearts appear to be in the right place. Get them reading. I think we can all appreciate that it sometimes takes some pretty flashy stuff to get the attention of younger readers. This is a good way to whet their appetites for reading nonfiction. There will probably be more than a few morbid-minded readers in the audience that may be driven to read more. There are maps, glossaries, timelines, etc., all of which are good additions.
Potential Flaws: What appears to be a boon is also something of a weakness here. As a sampling, it’s somewhat interesting, but they do lack depth. There is only so far you can go in a volume so slim. A number of reviews I found (none by major publications, unfortunately) cite the viewpoints of these books to be pretty negative and one-sided.
If you take these books at face value, they’re at least a way to get some readers to foray into nonfiction. While they rely on some sensationalism, it’s somewhat watered down. Readers expecting a spectacle will be disappointed.