Our school librarian and 4th year SLOCA parent Emily Ferrarini has a few enticing book reviews to share with us today! And although we won’t have them in stock before the holiday break, our school store should have copies of these books when we return in January, leaving plenty of time this trimester to try out these awesome reading suggestions!
The Middle Ages is certainly an enchanting time period – there are so many wonderful books that have been inspired by medieval history and literature. In fact, it can be overwhelming to choose! So here are just a few to get you started, and of course you can always find many more on our Supplemental Literature list for Year 2 - The Middle Ages, which can be found on the parent resources page of our website.
The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli
This sweet story about courage and triumph in adversity would make a great read aloud. Young Robin has been told his whole life that one day he, like his father, will learn the ways of knighthood. Then, Robin is struck by an illness that leaves him unable to use his legs. Left alone in plague-ridden London, Robin is taken to the monastery of St. Mark's by a kind monk named Brother Luke. Robin despairs, realizing that, as a cripple, he can never become a knight like his father. "Thou has only to follow the wall far enough," Brother Luke tells Robin, "and there will be a door in it." While recovering at the monastery, Robin discovers that door. He becomes skilled at woodcarving and swimming, and is taught to use his mind as well as his hands. Brother Luke shows Robin that with patience and strength, everyone has a place and a purpose.
Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter, by Astrid Lindgren
I love finding a children’s author that my whole family loves, and Astrid Lindgren is one of our absolute favorites. Many people are familiar with Pippi Longstocking, but she has written so many other fabulous tales, as well. In Ronia, two kids from rival clans become close friends, much to the frustration of their powerful families. (I wonder if your students will notice a parallel here with another famous story?) Ronia is a headstrong girl with strong beliefs and emotions who must learn some very difficult lessons about loyalty and forgiveness. Even though this book is about strife between families, it is a lot of adventurous fun. Lindgren’s characters always have a bit of a wild streak, but there’s a lot of tenderness infused in her stories as well. Don’t miss her other books: The Children of Noisy Village, The Brothers Lionheart, and the Pippi books.
The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander
This wonderful fantasy series, beginning with The Book of Three, revolves around Taran, a young orphan. Taran lives with his guardian Coll and the enchanter Dallben in a sleepy homestead. Frustrated by farm life, and forced to make horseshoes instead of swords, Taran sulks and whines until Coll bestows a title on him, though it is not the one young Taran had hoped for. Instead of Taran the Knight or, even better, Prince Taran, he becomes Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper. I love the characters in this series, particularly the young boy who aches to grow up… yet fears it a little bit at the same time. For this fantasy story, the author drew heavily from the Mabinogion, a collection of medieval Welsh myths. This is a wonderful series to dive into with your children, and be sure to discuss the parallels between Taran’s story and some of the other works of literature we have read together at SLOCA. Here we have an unlikely hero accepting a quest despite great odds against him, and as the story continues he learns that perhaps he is stronger, and more important, than originally thought. In the end, of course, he triumphs, and returns home with a very different perspective.
Once again, thank you Emily! These sound like excellent suggestions and we appreciate your time in reading and reviewing them for us!
In addition to the books reviewed above, Emily also thoroughly enjoyed the following books and recommends them as well. Links are provided so you can read more about them, but we do encourage you to purchase from our school store if you can:
Tristan and Iseult by Rosemary Sutcliff
(classic love story which inspired Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet)
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
(son of a traveling minstrel goes on a journey, 13th century England)
Girl in a Cage by Jane Yolen
(author of Letting Swift River Go / awesome story about Robert the Bruce, Medieval Scotland)
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