The Victorian era is often caricatured as a time of excessive modesty, and this buoyant, rhyming picture book highlights a royal example with affection and good humor.
Queen Victoria longs for a summer swim, but even when she’s vacationing at her informal residence on the Isle of Wight, decorum prevents her from traipsing down to the beach in her bathing suit—it would expose her queenly knees! Her doting husband, Prince Albert, invents a “bathing machine,” a caravan of sorts in which his wife can change out of her corset and petticoats in privacy and be wheeled straight into the water: “You climb down the steps in perfect repose, / into the ocean right up to your nose. / No one will get so much as a peep, / except for the creatures down in the deep.” Jaunty Seuss-ian rhymes (most effective when read aloud with an English accent) tell the amusing true-life story, and gleeful pen-and-watercolor illustrations of the royal family—including nine busy children—spill into lively double-page spreads. In one Monty Python–esque scene, Queen Victoria is unceremoniously flipped into the Atlantic via catapult, one of her husband’s earlier queen-transportation solutions. The book’s crown jewel? The underwater queen blissfully blowing bubbles with the fish.
A funny and intimate behind-the-scenes look at royal family life by the National Book Award–winning Whelan (Homeless Bird, 2000). (author’s note, photo of actual bathing machine, bibliography, websites) (Picture book. 4-8)