What It Means to be a Knight: Raising Sir Gallant

Raising Sir Gallant by Mary Bustamante

“The greatest are those who serve the least. Do you see, Gallant? By learning to be a servant, you have learned to be a knight. And all this was done in the context of the Holy Scriptures — the Bible, which is our guide to a virtuous life.”

The author, Mary Bustamante, sent me a copy of this book in exchange for sharing an honest review of it. I receive requests from authors to read and review their books pretty regularly, and I usually decline, but this one intrigued me for a couple of reasons. One is that I believe there is a need to recover biblical masculinity in our culture, and secondly, because I have two grandsons who I can share this book with when they get a bit older. The description of Raising Sir Gallant reminded me of the historical fiction novels of G. A. Henty, whose books I love.

Raising Sir Gallant is a charming sort of “coming of age” story of a young boy who is given the opportunity to train to become a knight. But the training Gallant receives is not what he initially expects or hopes for. He is so excited to wear a suit of armor, ride a big war horse, and learn to joust and fight with a sword. But week after week, his lessons with Sir Francis consist of “tedious things not fit for a knight,” as he thinks. “Why do knights need to learn how to plant vegetables? Or count and measure? I brush his horse and fetch his food. I am nothing more than an ordinary servant!” Gallant complains to himself. But Sir Francis knows that before a boy is ready to learn to handle a steed or wield a sword he must first train his mind and manners and develop the heart of a knight. Meanwhile, throughout the period of his training, Gallant harbors a secret that haunts him with a feelings of shame and guilt. He knows it is something he must confess and deal with, but what will his parents and Sir Francis think of him when they learn of what he did?

The story uses situations to teach character building such as the importance of honesty and integrity, hard work, respect for parents and authority, self-control, kindness, patience, generosity, bravery, and self sacrifice. The story teaches that every life has value, no matter where they are socially or economically. Throughout the story are sprinkled Bible verses and biblical principals, although it be from a medieval religious point-of-view.  The lessons that come through in this story transcend time, and are still relevant and valuable for our young ones today. Each chapter ends with a couple of questions for thought and a list of vocabulary words for the young reader.

Raising Sir Gallant meets the standards I looked for when choosing literature for my children when I homeschooled them, which I talk about on my Blog intro page. It depicts a Love for Home and Family, Love for God and His Word, Love for the Individual, and a Love for Learning. It stresses that the internal is more important than the external. I highly recommend this book for children ages 8-12, although older children and even adults will enjoy it as well. The author’s book oriented towards girls, entitled Raising Lady Grace, is expected to come out later this year.

On her website, SirGallant.com, Ms. Bustamante has supplemental teaching materials available to accompany her book, such as a workbook, crafts, and other hands-on related items to enhance the child’s learning experience as they read through Raising Sir Gallant.

What books that teach character building for children do you recommend?

‘Tis the Season – to Try a Little Dickens!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

“Who can listen to objections regarding such a book as this? It seems to me a national benefit, and to every man or woman who reads it, a personal kindness.” – William M. Thackeray on A Christmas Carol

It seems an appropriate time to reshare my thoughts on this well-known story, mainly because it’s an opportunity to talk about a book by one of my favorite authors. I know Dickens isn’t for everyone; he can be rather wordy, and many of his novels are REALLY long (like, 600+ pages). His stories always have complex plot lines with lots of characters and interesting twists, and he has created some of the most interesting and memorable characters in all of literature, Ebenezer Scrooge being one of them. Continue reading “‘Tis the Season – to Try a Little Dickens!”

A Christian Fable for Children: “So Much the Better”

MuchTheBetter-coverSo Much The Better by Megan Means

“When I encountered you, Ari, you caused me to look at life differently. The ways of my world seemed clearly wrong. I was puzzled. I was changed. I was bewildered. So, I had to follow you…My heart beats differently now and strangely enough, I do yearn for the things you speak of. I never cared about such ideas in the past. Being told I am trustworthy is something foreign to me and I want to understand more.”
“Gamzo, it appears old things have passed away and all things have become
new. It does happen to those who seek it.”

My sister asked me if I would read a book that a friend of hers wrote and maybe write a review of it, so I agreed. Before talking about the book itself, here’s a little bit about the author:

“Megan Means’ children were the inspiration for her to begin writing stories. Megan has a passion for children’s literacy and wants every child to have a love for books and reading. Megan enjoys volunteering in her community with the local Literacy Council to promote reading for young children and has served as a reading tutor in her local public schools to help children with learning disabilities.” Continue reading “A Christian Fable for Children: “So Much the Better””

Archibald Zwick: A Modern Christian “Everyteen”

ArchieZwick Archibald Zwick and the Eight Towers by Robert Leslie Palmer

  Humility is the path to freedom.
Mourning leads to change.
Surrender is gain.
Morality is possible only when it is impossible.

After reading my review of the Christian classic, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, the author of Archibald Zwick asked me if I would read his book and write a review of it, so I agreed and he sent me a copy. Like the classic Pilgrim’s Progress, Palmer’s story is a Christian allegory that uses the characters and events to symbolically convey spiritual truths to the reader. As others have pointed out, the story is similar to the C. S. LewisChronicles of Narnia series, so I think this book would appeal especially to teenagers (and adults) who enjoy that kind of fantasy tale. The story follows sixteen-year-old Archie, who finds himself in a fantastical floating island kingdom reminiscent of medieval England, except the people are smaller than the average human and have green-tinted skin, and the knights ride dolphins instead of horses. Continue reading “Archibald Zwick: A Modern Christian “Everyteen””

A Story of the Danish Resistance and its role in saving the Jews: Number the Stars

numberthestars-bookcoverNumber the Stars by Lois Lowry

The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem;
he gathers in the scattered sons of Israel.
It is he who heals the broken in spirit
and binds up their wounds,
he who numbers the stars one by one…
(from Psalm 147)

The Holocaust is a very sensitive topic; it’s not easily addressed at a child’s level and isn’t always done successfully. Children’s Literature Review explains: “Holocaust children’s literature has always been controversial. Though some feel that the subject matter is inappropriate for young audiences, others argue that children must be educated about such a significant historical event.” Lois Lowry’s historical fiction work, Number the Stars, is one of the more successful books to achieve this. Continue reading “A Story of the Danish Resistance and its role in saving the Jews: Number the Stars”

The Rhyme and Reason of Words and Numbers: The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom TollboothThe Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

“Words and numbers are of equal value, for, in the cloak of knowledge, one is warp and the other woof. It is no more important to count the sands than it is to name the stars.”

Do you consider yourself a Number person or a Word person? Have you noticed that many people prefer one over the other? I consider myself a “word nerd” — I tend to be a grammar cop, I’m a good speller, and I love reading, discussing books, and playing word games. On the other hand, someone who loves math and is good with numbers is often a bad speller and dislikes reading. (For example, they can remember a person’s phone number but not their name! Or like my son, who has managed to memorize 100 decimal places of pi, but would rather eat dirt than be required to memorize a 14-line sonnet!). The Phantom Tollbooth is an allegorical fantasy tale that plays up this rivalry between lovers of numbers and lovers of words.

Milo’s life lacked something, but he didn’t know what. He was bored with everything; nothing interested him, and he didn’t see the point in learning anything. Continue reading “The Rhyme and Reason of Words and Numbers: The Phantom Tollbooth”