Isabel: Jewel of Castilla, Spain, 1466 (The Royal Diaries)
While I don't think Scholastic has ever actively advertised themselves as the publishing company that aims to make it fun to learn, they truly could. The Royal Diaries series is another in their long line of entertaining historically accurate reading material.
Isabel's story makes up just one of the diaries. Others include Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tudor, Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile and Marie Antoinette: Princess of Versailles.
For those of you out there that think history is dry, dusty and boring---think again! Isabel's story is one of political intrigue, the power of the strong and the meek, love and loyalty.
The author, Carolyn Meyer says it herself: "It [history] always seemed to be about dates and battles and generals and treaties, and I cared more about what people are and what they wore and what they did all day." So, that's what she writes about.
The story is based on fact (in fact, the last part of the book covers the "dry" historical facts and provides pictures and dates) but it is ultimately a fictional account. The development of Isabel's personality from a meek, mousy young thing to a strong-minded queen is where the strength of the story lies.
She lives in some fear or her brother Enrique, the King. He controls her destiny completely...at least, until she discovers her own mind. Halfway through the novel, Isabel notes in her diary: "I am becoming very clever at saying maybe in a way that could be taken for yes when I really mean no." Her power comes from learning how to play the political games that she must learn to play to be queen.
Like the Dear America series (also by Scholastic), I recommend that this book be used as a teaching tool. It lets students put a face and a personality to characters that they get only a glimpse of through normal studies. And, best of all, they get to see what that historical personage might have been like at their age.