Hello, and thanks for joining us at Tundra Telegram, the column where we dig into the topics buried in our readers’ psyches and recommend some recent great books to continue the discussion.
The top of everyone’s mind this past weekend: what is a Platinum Jubilee?! Royal watchers don’t need an explainer, but if you’re an anti-monarchist like your humble author, you may have wondered what exactly was all the highborn hubbub. Well, the Platinum Jubilee of Elizabeth II was celebrated from June 3 to 6 in the United Kingdom and the rest of the Commonwealth of Nations (though in some former colonies, markedly less so!) to mark the 70th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne (way back in 1952).
And what a celebration it was, with commemorative coins being minted, Prime Ministers being booed (a substantial amount), Corgi drone lightshows, and – of course – the Queen meeting Paddington Bear. But whether you are as jazzed for the Jubilee as viral cyclist Steve, or as royally ticked off as four-year-old Prince Louis, we’ve got some Platinum-Jubilee-appropriate reading for you.
Without a doubt, the most fitting picture book is one that isn’t out until July 12: Queen Elizabeth: A Platinum Jubilee Celebration. This is an official, real-deal Platinum Jubilee souvenir. An illustrated history book for children, you will find everything from the Crown to the Corgis detailed here, as well as a poster, a Royal Family tree, four UK nation timelines and more!
A flap book fit for royalty, Nosy Crow’s Where’s the Queen?, illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius, features illustrated spreads set in England that include a police officer (bobby), a bus (or lorry) driver, and the Queen herself all hiding behind bright felt flap! And when the Jubilee goers were watching a hologram of Elizabeth II this past weekend, they were probably looking under every felt flap for the genuine article!
Less about the British royals and more an insight into their personalities, His Royal Highness, King Baby by Sally Lloyd-Jones and David Roberts tell a story of sibling rivalry, as an older sister (“the most beautifulest, cleverest, ever so kindest Princess”) deals with her family fawning over her burping, crying new brother, whom she has dubbed His Royal Highness, King Baby.
If the Platinum Jubilee is one thing, it’s overwhelmingly white. But your own Platinum Jubilee reading celebrations need not be. Check out Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s The Queen of Kindergarten, in which MJ prepares for her first day of kindergarten, with her hair freshly braided and her mom’s special tiara on her head. She knows she’s going to rock kindergarten, and your young readers will finish the book with that same confidence.
One of our favourite illustrators, Júlia Sardà (Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein) both writes and draws The Queen in the Cave, which is not a Paw Patrol episode featuring Her Majesty, but rather a story in which a young girl dreams about a queen who lives in a dark cave, deep in the forest. She and her younger sisters venture into the forest to see if her dreams are true, and must face dangers and fears along the way. And what they find in the cave is more unexpected than the Queen being projected on Stonehenge.
Though the queen in Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox and Brian Floca may share a name with the British monarch, there is something different about this Liz. She’s an elephant seal who decides to make her home in Christchurch, New Zealand (insert colonialism joke here) and – no matter how far away at sea the locals take her – won’t leave the water bodies of Christchurch.
And though we know she’s no longer performing royal duties, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include the picture book by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex on this list. The Bench, illustrated by Christian Robinson, is not only a beautiful book about the special relationship between father and son (perfect for Father’s Day), it’s also a great place to sit and watch a Platinum Jubilee parade.
Readers who want to know the real story that led up to this year’s Platinum Jubilee should read Who Is Queen Elizabeth II? by Megan Stine and Laurie A. Conley, part of the Who Was? Series. The biography tells how a little girl who loved horses (though I think there’s more involved than that – so many horse girls were passed over the crown) become the longest reigning monarch in England’s history.
And in Megan McDonald‘s Judy Moody and the Right Royal Tea Party illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, Grandma Lou and Judy dig up some proof that some old-timey Moodys lived in merry olde England – and Judy might even be related to the Queen herself! Move over, William and Harry; Judy Moody is taking her place in the peerage!
If that doesn’t sound wacky enough a take on the Queen for you, maybe Royal Family Mad Libs by Stacey Wasserman is up your alley. You’ll just need to write in the missing words on each page to create your own hilariously funny stories all about the royal family – it’s basically what the journalists do at The Daily Mirror!
Technically this book is probably better for fans of Jeopardy! Champion Mattea Roach than Queen Elizabeth II, but Her Majesty is often the subject of trivia questions herself (like, who are the six people mentioned in Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” who are still alive?). Donna Gephart’s Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen follows Olivia as she tries to become a contestant during the game show’s kids’ week – not only to prove her trivia knowledge, but to see her day, who left two years ago and lives nearby in California with his new family.
The delightful graphic novel Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis is not about the Queen of England, but the exiled Queen of Albion (which is kind of the same thing) and her friendship with orphan girl Margaret, who both find themselves on a tiny island of nuns, with a secret purpose that will (honestly) blow your mind.
And for a very different kind of queen, pick up Middle School’s a Drag, You Better Werk! by Greg Howard. Twelve-year-old Mikey Pruitt, budding entrepreneur, starts a junior talent agency and hires a thirteen-year-old aspiring drag queen, Coco Caliente, as his first client. HRH could never!
If you found yourself reading about the Diamond Jubilee and wondered what it would be like if America had a royal family, you need to check out Katharine McGee’s YA novel American Royals, in which George Washington was crowned king after the Revolutionary War, and readers follow Princesses Beatrice and Samantha as they both vie for the crown, plus handsome Prince Jefferson as he is pursued by various female suitors. To continue the story, check out Majesty and Rivals, and the prequel novella, Inheritance.
In the same vein, you’ll love the “Royals” duology of Prince Charming and Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins. Daisy Winters is a sixteen-year-old Floridian with a part time job at a bootleg Walmart, and a perfect older sister who’s nearly engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Relentless tabloid attention forces her join her sister at the Prince’s secluded castle where a young man named Miles has been assigned to My Fair Lady her, while the Prince’s younger brother tries to start a scandal with her. Regally romantic sparks fly!
And in a YA novel ripped from historic royal headlines comes My Name Is Victoria by Lucy Worsley. The protagonist is Miss V. Conroy, who is sent to Kensington Palace to become the companion to (then) Princess Victoria. If you’ve ever wondered what the (before Elizabeth II) longest reigning Queen of England was like as a teenager, crack this one open!
In Nameless Queen by Rebecca McLaughlin, one girl must make a name for herself in this royal fantasy where an unknown peasant becomes the ultimate ruler (over the king’s own daughter)! You’d never catch that happening in the United Kingdom! But how long can she keep the crown if everyone wants her dead?
Speaking of regicide, you’ve got options if that’s your thing (we’ll keep this conversation between us). Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte is a twisty murder mystery fantasy about the four queens of Quadara being murdered – and the talented pickpocket, Keralie, who discovers a video of the murder. And Pretty Dead Queens by Alexa Donne follows Cecelia Ellis as she tries to solve the copycat murders, decades apart, of the homecoming queens at Seaview High.
No doubt there have been a few times when Elizabeth II has wished she had her own hit squad, so she’d probably enjoy The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa De La Cruz. In it, Caledon Holt, the kingdom’s deadliest weapon must join forces with Shadow of the Honey Glade, who is expected to serve as a lady of the court, but is training to be an assassin like Cal. Chase that one with the follow-up, The Queen’s Secret (I guess the assassin isn’t the secret).
Finally, Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn may not feature any royalty by blood, but Amandla, who is a Black South African, digs into the history of her mysterious mother, who is white (and has prophetic visions), taking along her friends. And what they uncover involves more complex investigations of race, family, friendship, belonging, poverty, and love than four seasons of The Crown!