Friday, May 22, 2015

The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli

It's not often I review a children's book on the blog. But The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli, is too good to miss. Since it's a short book, it won't be a long review, but if you have kids in the age of--(Come to think of it, I have no idea how to gauge books for kids. But this one I'm thinking 6-10.)

It's a medieval story with a lot of charm.

The Book
Robin lives in daily expectation of becoming a page in the household of Peter de Lindsay. Before he's installed as a page, his father is called off to the Scottish wars. Then his mother is summoned to attend the queen, and Robin himself falls ill.

At least it isn't the plague that's rife in the streets, but when he wakes up, his legs are crippled and his dreams of being a knight are over. Abandoned by the servants, Robin is taken in and cared for by a group of monks until word can reach his father. When Robin finally receives a letter, he travels to the castle where Peter lives.

The castle is under siege, and Robin has the skills he needs to save them. All he has to do is find the 'door in the wall' that will save the day.

My Thoughts 
While I had absolutely no trouble with it, some people on Amazon said they had difficulty with the language style the author used. That may affect the age you decide to give it to your kids, but the story itself is still wonderful.

A lot of children's literature is ham-handed in its attempt to teach character. This book is subtle and natural and sweet. Robin is a regular child, prone to sadness, impatience, eagerness, and bluntness by turn. Apologies aren't always on the top of his list. But the story shows a natural arc of him learning perseverance, courage, and kindness, without explicitly pointing it out. He overcomes his crippled legs by learning what he can do on a pair of crutches--swimming, making music, and carving. He also learns how his abilities can help other people, even though he can't be the knight he wants to be.

I also appreciated his love for his parents--it was sincere and pure. While they were absent for a lot of the story, Robin received help and care from other adult mentors as he struggled through difficulties. Even so, he does get a shining, heroic moment by himself, which children like to see. :)

It is deftly written, and my edition has beautiful black and white illustrations by the author herself, which made it a real treat. If you're looking for a children's book for someone you know, this might be worth a try.

9 comments:

  1. I tried reading this book a few years ago or so, but I think I found it rather dull because I never finished it. However now with a considerably greater attention span I might try it again, as others besides you have spoken highly of it.

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    1. You should give it another try and see what you think! Let me know if you find it more to your liking this time. :)

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  2. This is one of my favorite books. The characters are so vivid and dear, and the story of Robin's struggles so sympathetically told. I like the setting, too...Edward III and the Welsh wars.

    It's extra special for our family because we happen to live in Marguerite De Angeli's hometown and our library is named after her. :)

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    1. I'm glad she told which king. I was wondering, when she mentioned the Scottish wars, and then she said.

      Yes...I had forgotten that! You have such a cool library. ;)

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  3. We absolutely love the audiobook version of this book!

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    1. I don't know if we've heard the same one or not, but I loved an audiobook version I heard too!

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  4. This was fun to read through the other day! :) I loved the edition you got--the illustrations were just perfect. It was good to become acquainted with it! ;)

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    1. As soon as I saw the illustrations, I knew that one was the right choice. :) I'm glad you enjoyed it!

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  5. This sounds like a really sweet children's book, Schuyler! I have been trying to find books for my little sister, Gracie, to read, that would be appropriate for her to read these days, as she really has gotten into reading lately. The thing is, at 11 years old, she is quite sensitive young girl,(much more than I was at her age), so my parents encourage me to help her find books that are spiritually encouraging and have very little moral ambiguity, children acting foolishly, or any major tragedies. I confess it has been a bit of a challenge, because many children's stories like to follow the arc of a foolish person coming to realize the error of his/her ways, or some stories just tend to deal with far more weighty and sad subjects.

    But recently Gracie read a really lovely little Christian classic novel for younger readers called "Sunshine Country" which has been a favourite for all of us girls growing up, and she just loved it so much! I would definitely recommend that one :D. But I will have to check out this book, "The Door in the War" - it sound super sweet. Thanks for the review, Schuyler :).

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