________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 3. . . .September 26, 2008


The Seventh Expert: An Interactive Medieval Adventure.

Mark Oakley. Illustrated by John Mantha.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2008.
96 pp., pbk. & hc., $14.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-065-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-066-5.

Subject Headings:
Adventure games-Juvenile literature.
England-Civilization-1066-1485-Juvenile literature.
Civilization, Medieval-Juvenile literature.
Middle Ages-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

*** /4



The riders break over the ridge and come into view. They slow their beasts to a walk, chain mail and swords clanking.

Sir Greggor squints at the mystery riders and then speaks into your ear. "That merchant told us true. I count eight. Armed with swords and crossbows. Light armor. Leather and some chain mail. We were fortunate to have had forewarning enough to prepare."

"Those riders can be plucked off easily enough," Josephine whispers. She is crouched by your other side, her eyes alight. She has been involved in this sort of dangerous adventure before, having had to risk her life evading authorities.


Well researched and tested, The Seventh Expert, a combination of storytelling and an interactive game, is designed to teach middle school readers about the Middle Ages. The story begins in 1362 when the fictional town of Port Haven, located on the coast of England near the Irish Sea, is destroyed by a violent storm. Survivors are forced to move inland and rebuild their community. Six experts- a knight, a homestead elder, a master carpenter, an archer/hunter, a blacksmith and a leatherworker- represented by both genders, are on hand to offer their advice on the move and the creation of a new settlement. The seventh expert is the reader whose role as leader makes him or her responsible for major decisions affecting the group. Thus the game begins.

     Following two pages of instructions on how to play, the book is divided into seven chapters, each one representing one year in the life of the people and focusing on a specific problem or hardship they face. At the end of each chapter, there are instructions for further play. Basically, the game is a combination of chance (a roll of the die), decision-making, critical thinking and problem-solving. An experts' catalog, located at the back of the book, provides 60 items or resources from which to choose to enable the people's survival. Some examples are healing herbs, watchtowers, vertical water mills and catapults. Points are accumulated in three different categories: effort, supplies and defense. A die, a piece of paper and a pencil are required in order to play the game (downloadable charts for recording points are available on the Annick Press web site). Depending on the roll of the die and the reader's strategy, the game is different every time it is played.

      The text is true to the period about which it is written, and there are plenty of sidebars explaining various aspects of life in medieval times, some of which include the Black Death, apprenticeships, trade and tinkers, and the role of peasants and serfs. Sometimes, however, the sidebars distract the reader from the game at hand and are a bit of an annoyance, especially if the main body of the text continues onto the next page. Even in the experts' catalog, there is too much extraneous text which slows the game. Illustrations, rendered in muted colours, enhance the text, especially in the experts' catalog.

      Though readers will, no doubt, learn a great deal about life in the Middle Ages (even if they don't play the game), and the concept of the book is innovative, this book would, perhaps, work better in gameboard format. In its present state, it is a solo activity, but it could easily become a little more interesting in a different format, perhaps pitting two or more players against one another as they try to set up communities for their people. As well, the allotting of points can be somewhat confusing on a first attempt of the game, though it does seem to get easier on subsequent tries. Lastly, the book has a limited audience, due both to its subject matter and its interactive concept.

      A table of contents and a list of books and web sites for additional information about the Middle Ages are included.


Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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