Are your "knights in shiny armor" books getting a little dull and rusty? Not exactly a waiting list for Walter Scott's Ivanhoe? Are the sixty-year old Rosemary Sutcliff titles and standard Howard Pyle's Men Of Iron, gathering dust? Have you read or are you familiar with Michael Cadnum's National book Award finalist, Book Of The Lion? It's the twelfth century, age of the Crusades, and Richard The Lion Heart. Seventeen-year-old Edmund involuntarily finds himself, along with another lad, Hubert, as squires to crusader knights heading for the Holy Land. After an event-filled journey, they arrive and, under the leadership of Richard The Lion-Heart, lay siege, successfully capture the important city of Acre, and defeat Saladin at the battle of Arsuf. Edmund with his "hammer" weapon grows up fast, acquires knight training, and is tested in battle. He witnesses and experiences the brutality, unfairness, and heartbreak of war -- no romantic Camelot here. Afterwards, the battle-weary knights with Edmund and Hubert head back to England.
Adequate historical research, the author's skillful character development and exciting action scenes make for a vicarious read. Libraries will also want to acquire the sequel, The Leopard Sword, and The Dragon Throne which completes the "knighthood" saga of the heroic youths, Edmund and Hubert.
Quite frankly, I can't imagine a MS/HS fiction collection without numerous Michael Cadnum books. I recommend both his derring-do historical adventures from Ship Of Fire (sea tale with Francis Drake), In A Dark Wood & Forbidden Forest (retelling of Robin Hood) the "Norse" saga books--Raven Of The Waves and Daughter Of The Wind for girls to his contemporary "problem" YA titles such as Heat (girl athlete) and the tough, Redhanded (boy boxer).
Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, Librarian.