The Bumper Book of London

JONES, Becky & Clare Lewis. illus. by authors. 280p. (An Adventure Walks Book). charts. maps. further reading. index. Frances Lincoln. 2012. pap. $19.95. ISBN 978-0-7112-3145-0.
Gr 4 Up—With Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee in full swing, and the Summer Olympics fast approaching, London is the place to be in 2012. Most visitors will be familiar with red phone boxes, the Houses of Parliament, and Trafalgar Square, but may not know that the iconic phone booth design was the result of a competition, that Big Ben is the name of the bell, not the clock, and that the lions at the base of Nelson's Column were modeled on the King of Sardinia's lion. Nor will they necessarily be aware of the number of common expressions that have roots in the history or traditions of life in the city: "box office," "on the wagon," "big wigs," "exchequer." This volume is not so much a guidebook as it is a factoid head-rush. The authors have done an admirable job of organizing an astounding amount of trivia, history, and minutiae. After starting with a brief chapter of random facts, the book is arranged by historical periods, from Roman London up to postwar London. It's unfortunate that there isn't a chapter about millennial and 21st-century London (there is a huge difference between London of the 1950s and the Cool Britannia 1990s), but this is a minor quibble. The book is further divided by areas of interest: "Royal London," "Crime and Punishment," "Show Time," etc. The final chapter, "London's Best," is one last chance to itemize the absolute "must see" locations. The book is illustrated with childlike drawings that add to its eclectic charm. The index is useful but almost too scholarly for such an ephemeral title. A highly entertaining way to encounter a most extraordinary city.—Kara Schaff Dean, Walpole Public Library, MA

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