Caroline Arnold's Books

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Taj Majal book cover Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal, whose beauty has inspired poets and artists for centuries, is one of the world’s best known monuments. Behind its creation lies the love story of Emperor Shah Jahan, one of the great rulers of the Mughal Empire, and his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Echoing the style of the magnificent illustrated manuscripts that chronicle royal life in 16th century India, this book recalls both history and legend in the story of a striking beauty who captures the heart of a young prince, of the epic events of their life together, and of the ultimate fulfillment of a promise.

Prizes and Awards
  • Society of School Librarians International(SSLI) Honor Book, Social Studies, Grades K-6, 2007
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, 2008 (NCSS-CBC)
  • Independent Publisher Book Awards, Bronze Medal in the Multicultural Nonfiction, Juvenile-Teen YA category, 2008
  • Award for Excellence in Illustration, Children's Literature Council of Southern California, 2008
  • Nominated for Cybils Picture Book Award, 2007
  • Children's Projects

      Make a Model of the Taj Mahal Taj Mahal

      Click here to print a pattern and directions to make a model of the Taj Mahal. This project works best if you can print the pattern on heavy paper or cardstock.

    Book notes

    Caroline Arnold was inspired to write about the Taj Mahal after a recent trip to India. “Despite all the pictures I had seen of the Taj Mahal, I wasn’t prepared for the impact of its beauty as I stepped through the gate and saw it for the first time.” Ms. Arnold recently received the Washington Post/Children’s Book Guild nonfiction award for her body of work. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program.

    For more information about Caroline's experiences researching and writing Taj Mahal, go to Book Notes.

    Madeleine Comora is a poet and author of the picture books Rembrandt and Titus and the award-winning George Washington’s Teeth. She has spent extended periods of time in India with her husband Rahul Bhushan. In 1997 they traveled together to Agra where she researched the history of the Taj Mahal and the legend surrounding it, hoping to one day bring the timeless story to life. She lives in Southern California where she teaches in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.

    Rahul Bhushan was born in Hyderabad, India, where his father was an acclaimed artist. He studied Fine Art at the University of Baroda and in Staffordshire, England. His early love of miniature painting influenced his work in a wide range of fields including painting, photography, carpet design and digital new media. He lives with his wife Madeleine Comora in Southern California. This is his first picture book.

    Reviews

  • To hear a podcast review of Taj Mahal at Just One More book, click here.
  • Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 2007 Starred Review

    Placed over wide, sumptuous carpets of finely detailed golden vines or other motifs and illustrated with accomplished Indian-style miniatures, this lyrical account frames a touching tale of love and loss in magnificent visuals. Falling in love as teenagers, Prince Khurram and a court official's daughter Arjumand courted in secret, and then after a glorious wedding went on to rule wisely and well as Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal until her death during childbirth in 1631. Obeying her deathbed wish that all the world know of their love, he built her the jeweled tomb that is still one of the world's wonders. He too is buried there, as the separate, black tomb he planned for himself was never built. Historical summaries and other notes (including the admission that most of the story is based on legend, since Mughal rulers guarded their privacy), plus a short reading list, cap a story based in history, and as romantic as any in folklore.

    Publishers Weekly, May 28, 2007 Starred Review

    One of the world's architectural wonders takes center stage in this exquisitely illustrated story about its history and lore. With abundant detail and poetic license, Arnold (The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers) and Comora (George Washington's Teeth) recount the legendary love story behind the Taj Mahal (which means "crown palace"). Shah Jahan builds the spectacular monument to entomb and immortalize his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died at age 39 shortly after childbirth. An emperor in the Mughal Dynasty in 17th-century India, "Shah Jahan spared no expense. Pearl white marble was brought from quarries in Jodhpur... crystal came from China, lapis lazuli from Afghanistan... sapphires and quartz from the Himalayas." Bhushan's debut picture book's extraordinary paintings echo the floral motifs and symmetry of the famous mausoleum. Intricate, narrow borders of tiny gold flowers within ribbons of ruby red or forest green surround and connect text boxes and illustrations. In several spreads, concentric borders give the impression of framed art. Larger floral- and pastoral-patterned backdrops in muted gold bleed off each page. The scenes themselves, which have a formal, portrait quality (many of the faces are flat and in profile), are filled tiny details, from jewels and luxuriously textured fabrics to elaborate battle dress. In the wedding parade scene, nearly a hundred individuals in miniature occupy a courtyard, each wearing a finely drawn costume. Facts about the royal family and the Taj Mahal, as well as a bibliography, wrap up this nonfiction narrative, though it's the artwork throughout that is sure to amaze. Ages 5-up.

    Margaret Williams "Tome Raider"

    A good book for kids about the Taj Mahal is hard to find. I know because I've been searching for one for quite a while. Those that I've found before this one were over-written and textbookish and the art didn't live up to the story, which is about a legendary love that created the most beautiful architecture in the world. At last, there is a book that will set any child's imagination soaring. It boasts an engaging story told in an age-appropriate vocabulary, with beautiful illustrations, framed in intricate, decorative borders. One can see from the quality of its binding and the color on its heavy pages that this book has been put together with great care and without cost-saving short-cuts. I would have loved it when I was a kid. I bought it for an eleven year-old who was delighted with it and actually put down her Game Boy to spend the afternoon reading it.

    Jennifer Mattson, Book List, June, 2007

    The sixteenth-century love story behind the Taj Mahal, rather than the monument itself, is the focus of this gorgeous picture book. Cowritten by two seasoned children’s-book authors, the heavily fictionalized narrative tells of the passionate first meeting, and ensuing devoted partnership, between Khurram, a Mogul prince, and his bride, Arjumand. Her death in childbirth leads the stricken widower, now emperor, to commission a lavish mausoleum “as perfect . . . as if heaven and earth [were] joined.” ...Little will hinder readers from reveling in the artistic contributions of Bhushan, a Hyderabad native. In the tradition of Mogul miniatures, his ornate, elaborately framed paintings capture the culture of elegant luxury that reached its apogee in the story’s celebrated structure.