CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 11. . . .November 12, 2010
On a Medieval Day: Story Voyages Around the World.
Rona Arato. Illustrated by Peter Ferguson.
Toronto, ON: Maple Tree Press, 2010.
96 pp., pbk. & hc., $17.95 (pbk.), $27.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-897349-95-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-897349-94-6 (hc.).
Middle Ages-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.
Review by Myra Junyk.
For my entire life, I will remember my first sighting of Timbuktu. It was just past dawn when the flat roofs of the great city appeared before me. One magnificent structure towered above them. I rubbed my eyes. Was I seeing a mirage or was this vision real?
Rona Arato's On a Medieval Day portrays the medieval world through the eyes of boys and girls ages 12 to 14. Each section of this collection has a fiction piece weaving details about transportation, social relationships, clothing and housing into the narrative. At the end of each story, there is a nonfiction section outlining specific facts with illustrations about culture, politics, art, and economics of the society in the narrative.
Unlike most texts about medieval history, Arato's moves beyond the usual stories of English knights to stories about impoverished women in Japan, persecution in Spain, and trading in Timbuktu. In "A Serious Game," 14-year-old Tikal learns to play the national Mayan sport in 720 A.D. In "Hana's Wedding," 13-year-old Hana, living in China during the Chang Dynasty in 740 A.D., must face her fears about an arranged marriage. In "Jamal and the Doctor," set in Baghdad in the Islamic Empire in 905 A.D., Jamal has an unknown disease when he meets the world-famous healer Dr. Al-Razi. What links all these unique stories together is a sense of the complexity of medieval culture in the time period from 400- 1400 A.D.
Arato's stories provide readers with interesting and unique perspectives on a period of history which is usually described in terms of knights, squires, monks and peasants. Although some of the stories are rather lengthy, readers will definitely enjoy reading both about male and female teenagers and their experiences in various parts of the world during medieval times. Not only will readers learn a great deal about medieval culture, society and politics, but they will also learn that the conflicts faced by the young medieval protagonists are often the very same conflicts which readers face in their own day-to-day lives!
The illustrations show the characters mostly in hues of red and orange. Although these characters live in various time periods throughout the medieval world, the illustrator has linked their images by portraying all of them as wide-eyed teenagers staring out into the distance. Each section also includes a symbol related to the culture described in the story.
This text challenges traditional medieval stereotypes by including stories about female roles and the economies and cultures of the Far East, Vinland, Europe and Africa. On a Medieval Day will be a good resource for social studies classes.
Myra Junyk is a Toronto-based literacy advocate and author.
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