This time last year I fell in love with Linda Ashman’s book of dog poetry, Stella Unleashed, told from the point of view of a “pound puppy.” She wove together a series of independent poems to create a well-rounded picture of one dog’s life in a loving family. Later in the year came M is for Mischief, a completely different kind of poetry collection with alphabetical verses about mischievous, even awful, children (named from A to Z). And now she presents us with a parade of medieval characters in Come to the Castle. This woman has some range!
Come to the Castle is an appealing complement to last year’s Newbery award winning, Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz. Ashman also provides poems from multiple points of view, including an earl, steward, herald, lady, cook, cleaning servant, knight, suitor, daughter, jester, doctor, and the gong farmer—sure to be kids’ favorite for his role in cleaning the “toilet.” (A poem about medieval toilets! Love it!) Some of these are official positions in a castle community and others are roles to be played, but each character reveals roles and attitudes, as well as details about castle life as they prepare to hold a tournament. Strong on rhyme and sly humor, the poems read well aloud and would be fun to perform. Just try this one, for example:
by Linda Ashman
I have no fresh capon. No porpoise or eel.
No sumptuous roast for a memorable meal.
Still I must follow the Lady’s command.
A feast in two days? I’ll use what’s on hand:
Gizzards and livers and kidneys and feet—
Grind it up well into mystery meat.
Bind it with egg, mix it with spice,
Throw in some currants and mustard and rice.
Drop it in stews, bake it in pies,
Roll it in balls (or some other disguise).
Toss on some flowers, gild it with gold.
Present it with antlers or feathers. Be bold!
A fine work of art to fill them with awe—
So what if it’s cold, or the meat is still raw?
The perspectives and poems build from one to another to tell a story about castle life, particularly in the context of preparations for special celebrations. The detailed and extensive illustrations by S. D. Schindler correspond beautifully to the poems and extend their meaning and impact. The delicate watercolor paintings on mock parchment paper are in the style of illuminated manuscripts, complete with the decorated opening letter. Taken together, the poems and art make this a poem picture book that will even work with older kids in grades 6-8 as they study world history, as well as for reading aloud with younger audiences intrigued by Arthur tales and Renaissance festivals.
There's also a brief author's note and a thumbnail sketch with a short factual paragraph for each character at the back of the book-- a helpful cast of characters for planning a dramatic reading. And for an interview with Linda Ashman about the book, check out Abby, the Librarian's blog!
PLUS, the publisher, Roaring Brook Press, wants you to know that The Children’s Book Review is giving away signed copies of this book to 5 lucky contest winners. The giveaway ends June 1st, so act quickly. Check it out!
Thanks to Anne Moss with Roaring Brook Press for the tip!
Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.
Image credit: www.greenleafpress.com