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Nonfiction Monday: Castle: How It Works by David Macaulay

Castle: How It Works
By David Macaulay with Sheila Keenan

David Macaulay Studio (Macmillan)

ISBN: 9781596437449
Grades 1-4
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Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your Library

One of the more satisfying things about being an elementary school librarian (other than the resurgence of the cardigan sweater) is seeing gaps filled. The landscape of early reader nonfiction is not exactly teeming with high quality titles. Bland and boring are more rule than exception. Enter David Macaulay, “master explainer”, to bring forth a My Readers series to help remedy the situation.

Castles are best described from the outside in. Created to be inpenetrable by foes, there’s a lot to be learned by following a a friend inside. Each layer of security – from bridge to gate to wall to door – is described in clear yet simple detail. The level of complexity and sophistication is staggering. And while castles are full of impressive safety measures, they are also home to clever solutions for everyday life. A glossary (with diagram) and index round out the back matter.

The color illustrations are brimming with Macaulay’s signature detail. Cut-aways show the inner workings of drawbridges and gatehouses, while other illustrations are used to set the scene and give an idea of life inside and outside the walls.

While it fills a specific gap, Castle has the ability to cast a fairly wide net. Medieval fans are in. Readers who dig castle warfare will pick it up. Teachers looking for lesson connections? Check. Whatever the purpose, you should have it on hand. I’ll be on the lookout for more books in this series.

Review copy from the library.

Be sure to check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Perogies & Gyoza.

Also reviewed by Book-A-Day Almanac.

Did you know David Macaulay gave a TED talk back in 2002? Here it is:

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Thank you for this lovely review.

  2. Thanks for participating in this week’s Nonfiction Monday. This looks like a great book for budding architects as well as play soldiers!

  3. So happy to learn about this book. My son will love it.