Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘Kathyrn Erskine

From established author Kathryn Erskine comes a story full of adventure and heart. Set in Medieval Times, The Badger Knight is about the small and sickly twelve-year-old Adrian, who wants to become apprenticed for war. The style created both a sympathetic character and authentic setting for me. My main disappointment in this epic tale lay in reaching the end.

Being a fan of Erskine I have not only read almost all of her earlier novels, but also remain impressed with how easily she seems to develop the narrator’s voice. In The Badger Knight, phrases like “his horse’s piss steam the air” feel appropriate to the male way of expression. When Adrian writes about panting, stumbling, and needing time for air to return to his lungs, I believe that he has asthma. Moreover, I feel empathy for him, because of how he portrays himself as not a devil or an angel, but “Underneath my odd-looking outside I’m just me.” Adrian then proceeds to declare he is just a boy—“well, almost a man. They’ll see”. In doing so, I also gain insight into the depth of his struggles to be accepted by his peers, neighbors, relatives, and father.

Through Adrian’s unique voice, the setting also comes to life. Adrian writes of how events of the time impacted him. For example, not only did the plague take his mother and sister, but his aunt feels that the plague should have taken Adrian too because he’s so useless. Inspired by the plague, which cost the village one-third of its residents, Adrian finds his call in life. He wants to be an archer and serve in the war between the English and the Scots. Adrian’s choice of words and even his curses well befits the times being portrayed: addlepated, ox’s ass, pittance, God’s bones. Finally, there’s the religious atmosphere, which again we see through Adrian’s perspective. For instance, there’s the debate by villagers over whether his stature and albinism are a good omen or a sign that he’s of the devil.

Many times while reading The Badger Knight, I found myself thinking about The Chronicles of Prydain. The series follows Taran as he nears manhood while helping to resist the forces of Arawn Death-Lord. While an obvious difference exists in genre, with the first being historical fiction and the latter being fantasy, they share a commonality when it comes to character and setting. Both characters desire to partake in more meaningful tasks, in that Adrian wishes to do more than collect goose feathers, while Taran wishes to do more than watch pigs. Both also live in a time of war and believe that the way to heroism is to fight in battle. In that I have compared The Badger Knight to one of my favorite series, I obviously like the tale. My only disappointment is that I feel, unlike with The Chronicles of Prydain, the main character needed more time to realistically change. I would have appreciate even another one hundred pages dedicated to showing how Adrian learns that heroism often lays outside of war.

Whenever a novel from Kathyn Erskine comes my way, I know that I’m in for a delightful reading week. The Badger Knight features an engaging style, unique main character, and a setting with relevance to our modern world. I would expect no less from Erskine.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

Years ago, as part of my graduate program in Mild/Moderate Disabilities, one of my professors challenged our class to evaluate how our forms of entertainment portrayed those with special needs. Did movies present only stereotypes? Did books regulate those with disabilities to the role of the secondary character? Did music ever venture into this arena? I have never forgotten her class. And so, soon after I started doing thematic round-ups, I put special needs on my list of topics.

Being a resource teacher, I feel relatively confident of my ability to analyze how accurately books portray students with disabilities. My bigger dilemma actually came in narrowing down my selection. Should I review books which featured any special need? Or should I narrow my choices to books featuring those with physical handicaps, mental retardation, learning disabilities, or behavior and emotional disorders? Although I have experience working with students in all these areas, the bulk of my time I spend helping students with learning disabilities. Hence, I decided to limit myself to this theme.

Having made that decision, I simply had to pick out the books to review. As with adoption, I thought it’d be most useful to start out with some factual books. This provides the working knowledge one needs to understand the topic. Then I turned to fiction selections. The bulk of these I found in the juvenile shelves. When I eventually broaden my coverage to include other disabilities, I wonder will I find ones on the young adult shelves?

Before I close, I want to highlight two books. Although eventually I would have featured this topic in my thematic round-ups, receiving a complimentary copy of The Absolute Value of Mike from author Kathyrn Erskine is what  inspired me to turn to it this fall. Then because I had been promoting the round-up, author Carmen Swick contacted me about reviewing Fishing with Grandpa, book one in The Patch Land Adventures series. She wrote it for her son, who is legally blind in one eye and so needs to wear a patch. Technically, this disability doesn’t fall under learning disabilities, but I agreed to include it in my coverage of nonfiction books because it can cause academic struggles.

This round-up will work similar to my adoption one, except the majority of my posts will appear every two days. This allows me time to read the longer selections on my list. Then I’ll wrap-up my learning disabilities round-up with a reflection that will include links to all relevant posts. If you’re interested in knowing the full list of books which I’ll review, you can find it near the top of the right-hand column. Enjoy the round-up!

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