We finished Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager last week. I made a near-heroic effort to finish it since I had to read the last few chapters in the span of a few days, and the chapters in this book are rather long. I typically read our chapter book aloud as the girls and the DLM are finishing up their lunches, but the length of our read-aloud session depends almost entirely on how long the DLM is content to eat his quartered grapes or apple pieces relatively quietly (or for what passes for quietly for an almost two year old). Last week this was quite a challenge, but we persevered and finished it, and I know by my girls’ reactions to it that it was worth the bit of mental strain I experienced to try to keep the DLM happy and read aloud at the same time. 😉
I picked up this story because it is a suggested read-aloud for the Middle Ages time period in the Story of the World Activity Guide for volume two, and we read the first book in Eager‘s Tales of Magic series last year and enjoyed it. (The first book is Half Magic, and you can read my thoughts about it here.) As it turns out, we missed at least one book in between the two we’ve now read, but this didn’t hamper our ability to understand or enjoy Knight’s Castle in the least. This might even be considered a good thing since Lulu immediately went to the shelf and pulled down Magic by the Lake, one of the intervening stories, and read it herself. That’s definitely one of the advantages to reading a series aloud; the listeners’ reading appetites are whetted for the subsequent stories after the first one is read.
Knight’s Castle is the story of a quartet of children, two sets of boy-girl siblings who happen to be cousins, who are whisked away into a magical world by a toy soldier called the Old One. He is a Medieval knight, so of course he magicks the children into his own time period, which also happens to be the story of Ivanhoe. The ins and outs of why they go and how they get there were kind of lost on me since I was reading with one eye and half my brain zeroed in on the
eating screaming DLM, but the magic also involves a toy castle and other various toys in the children’s bedrooms. It’s sort of one of those stories with dolls that come to life, only in this case the children actually become a part of the dolls’ world instead of the other way around. (I’ve written about a few other such books, including my personal favorites, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. This aside has very little to do with Knight’s Castle; I just love both of the books I’ve linked here, and I think everyone ought to read them.)
Knight’s Castle is very exciting and suspenseful, since Ivanhoe’s story (which the children in the book all know well thanks to either the book, the movie, or both) gets all muddled thanks to their entrance into it and inadvertent “rewriting” of it. I actually picked up the Great Illustrated Classics version of Ivanhoe and had Lulu read it as her assigned reading the week we began Knight’s Castle, thinking it would help her get the story a bit better. I think it did, but I think I’m the one who needed the help more. I’m really curious to read the original story by Sir Walter Scott now, especially since I could never keep Rebecca and Rowena straight. (Yes, I know they’re nothing alike, but I still got them muddled all the time.) (And as yet another unrelated aside, does anyone know in which book the character Rebecca Rowena _______ appears? 🙂 ) I think I need to add Ivanhoe to my Classics Club list.
Did I personally love Knight’s Castle? No, although under more peaceful circumstances (i.e. reading the book only during the DLM’s naptime) I would have enjoyed it more. There were many moments that made me laugh aloud. Most of those involved anachronisms for the Middle Ages, like a “pale and thin and scholarly” Ivanhoe lounging about in a dressing gown and reading The Angry Planet . This, and the fun of reading Middle Ages jargon in just the right knightly voice are the two things that made this otherwise somewhat confusing story fun for me. Did my girls love it? Yes. In fact, not only did Lulu then pick up Magic by the Lake, she also went back and re-read Half Magic. Reading begets more reading, and that’s always a winner in my book. (Harcourt, 1956; renewed 1984)
What’s in your read-aloud basket?