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?

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”

Confronting the Horrors of Slavery: Slave Dancer

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox

“I danced the slaves under Stout’s watchful eye…But in truth I was so agitated I could hardly make my fingers work on the fife…I could not help but see the wretched shambling men and women whose shoulders sank and rose in exhausted imitation of movement.”

Let me just start out by telling you that some literary critics believe that the book The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox is inappropriate reading for the Junior High grade level due to the violent nature of the story. The plot focuses on a disturbing topic and has some graphic images, therefore some discretion should be used. But I don’t believe that is sufficient reason for keeping the book out of the hands of students. I am, however, discussing this book as a work that would be best read as a literature study with the guidance of a teacher or parent and accompanied by thoughtful discussion. In my opinion, it’s not the kind of book you just give a ten-year-old for independent recreational reading. Continue reading “Confronting the Horrors of Slavery: Slave Dancer”

The Boy Who Wanted to Write the Bible: Ink on his Fingers

InkonFingers-CoverInk on His Fingers by Louise A. Vernon

Hans recalled with painful intensity his vow to make the man who had borrowed Father’s money return it all. Here it was – but now he did not want the money, and he knew Mother would not want it either. The printing of the Bible must come first.

When twelve-year-old Hans Dunne’s father dies suddenly, it looks like he will be forced to drop out of the monastery Latin school. As it turns out, his father was in debt, so now his mother cannot pay the tuition for school. Hans feels he should learn a trade in order to help his family. But his secret ambition is to one day make copies of the Bible, and if he doesn’t become a monk, how will he ever be able to achieve his goal? Continue reading “The Boy Who Wanted to Write the Bible: Ink on his Fingers”

The Logans: Learning to Overcome Prejudice: Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Original oil painting by Max Ginsburg, 2007
Original oil painting by Max Ginsburg, 2007

Roll of thunder hear my cry
Over the water bye and bye
Ole man comin’ down the line
Whip in hand to beat me down
But I ain’t gonna let him
Turn me ’round.

In her Newbery Award acceptance speech, Taylor said that one of her goals as a writer was to “paint a truer picture of Black people. I wanted to show the endurance of the Black world, with strong fathers and concerned mothers; I wanted to show happy, loved children about whom other children, both black and white, could say, ‘Hey, I really like them! I feel what they feel.’ I wanted to show a Black family united in love and pride, of which the reader would like to be a part.” I think if you read Roll of Thunder, you will agree with me that Ms. Taylor achieved her goal. Continue reading “The Logans: Learning to Overcome Prejudice: Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry”

A Korean Boy and a Small Piece of Clay: A Single Shard

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

“It’s not my fault you lost your son, not my fault I’m an orphan! Why must it be father to son? If the pot is made well, does it matter whose son made it?”

A Single Shard is an engaging story about a 12th century Korean boy of twelve who is trying to find his way in life. The boy called Tree-ear does not have a comfortable home and lifestyle, and sheer survival is an issue he faces daily. Although an orphan, he is fortunate enough to have a father-son relationship with the elderly Crane-man, who has taken care of Tree-ear since he was a young child. I really liked the way Park depicted the relationship between these two “down-and-outers.” Continue reading “A Korean Boy and a Small Piece of Clay: A Single Shard”