The Minstrel Boy.
Grades 7 - 11 / Ages 12 - 16.
Grades 7 - 11 / Ages 12 - 16.
"It's so different now from the way it was. I mean, the way it will be," he said. "In my time all the trees are gone. Only this hasn't changed." He jerked his thumb at the stones behind them.David is a 17-year-old Canadian boy who has been uprooted from home after the death of his mother and taken to Wales by a father whom he believed to have deserted them. After a serious quarrel with his father, David storms out of the house, steals a motor bike from a friend, crashes it, and wakes up in sixth-century Britain. Bear is the young man of this era who finds him, takes him back to his village and persuades his mentor and guardian to look after him. From this point, the story follows the fairly preditable route of David's adapting to the hardships of life in these times where his gift for music, despised by his father, is recognized and encouraged, but where he is expected to work at both it and learning how to defend himself and the village. This mixture of tough love and understanding, which was so notably absent in his own times, makes David grow up to the point that, when the village is attacked by the Saxons, he joins the other young men as they pursue the marauders in the hopes of getting back the prisoners, including a girl with whom he has fallen in love, but who is betrothed to another young man of the tribe. In the ensuing fight, David is hit on the head and wakes up in hospital, a week after his accident.
"It's already as old as time," said Bear. "I'm glad there's something I know that doesn't change. But I can't imagine living in a world that wasn't green. Still, your world has all the other things you've told me about ..." His voice trailed away. He shaded his eyes to gaze at the pale wafer of moon floating in the western sky. "Like the men who will walk ... there."
David grinned. "That's your favourite of all my tales, isn't it? That and the dinosaurs."
The unusual twist to this story comes when David, in an attempt to make sense of his experiences, talks to a retired professor of history who not only persuades him that his experience was real (he actually can play, and play well, a small Welsh harp), but ties Bear and the lads of the village to the story of King Arthur, and the development of the Round Table (The ancient Celtic word for Bear is Artos.). This information, which comes as a surprise just at the end of the book, adds depth and interest to the story and helps David both to accept his removal from the people whom he had come to love and appreciate and to start to get his "real" life in order.
While the book is a bit sterotypical, David and Bear are interesting boys, and readers will care that they should work out their salvation satisfactorily.
Mary Thomas began her working life as a chemist but took the opportunity of a parenthood break to switch to a career in Kiddie Lit, first by selling children's books, and now as a library technician working in two very different Winnipeg schools.
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Copyright © 1997 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THIS ISSUE - OCTOBER 17, 1997.
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