Scholastic Press ISBN 9780545464420
INT Grades 4-6 Rating: 4
Adrian of Ashcroft longs to be useful and respected in Badger Knight. His small stature, sickly constitution, pale skin, hair and eyes, and poor eyesight lead some of his peers to bully him and some adults to deride him. Adrian knows he is meant to do something great, and when he is in private he trains diligently to be an archer. In spite of poor eyesight, he shows extraordinary skill. Unfortunately, he is only 12 years old, and his father will not allow him to join in defending his town when they are endangered by the Scots. Adrian thinks his father doesn’t respect him enough to allow him to apprentice as a bowyer, he thinks his cousins are hateful, and that war is glorious.
When his best friend, Hugh, sneaks off to join in the fighting, Adrian is determined to find and join him. Along the way, Adrian spends time in a city where he discovers chamber pots are emptied from windows and life on the streets to be harrowing. He learns the horror of war when he witnesses an arrow piercing and killing a friend. Through the course of the story, Adrian makes new friends, experiences a war, and befriends an enemy.
Kathryn Erskine set Badger Knight in 1346 England and Scotland, and she deftly brings the medieval period to life. Adrian’s character grows as he learns the importance of finding and fulfilling his purpose instead of striving for glory. Once Adrian leaves his small village of Ashcroft, England, the tension tightens and makes the story more compelling. Adrian witnesses a battle scene complete with men being chopped up with pickaxes and crying out for mercy. When extremely frustrated, Adrian sometimes mutters “God’s bones” (p.5), “God’s lungs” (p.9), and “Saint Jerome’s bones” (p. 60). In some spots Adrian references his understanding of eternity as well as protection by saints. The theme–that things (and people) are not always as they appear– is beautifully summed up when Adrian learns that even he is not as he appears, but instead he is “someone useful from the village of Ashcroft” (p. 325).
Kristina Wolcott, CLJ
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