Friday, May 22, 2015
The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli
It's a medieval story with a lot of charm.
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.
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.