Knights – those romantic warriors of the past who rode through the English countryside fighting colossal battles and undertaking mysterious quests. Knights – those brave men sworn to honor the codes of chivalry. Knights – one of the most fascinating companies of men to grace the earth. Knights – heroes.
Who among us has not at some point or another been fascinated with knights and knighthood? My interest began when I read Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe and extended through Henty’s Winning his Spurs and Haggard’s The Brethren. It was consolidated by the tales of King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Richard the Lion-hearted. I still love medieval drama and the thrill of sword-play as found in the aforementioned novels and others. And it is this interest that finds itself charmed by How to Be a Knight.
How to be a Knight, ostensibly written by Sir Geoffrey de Lance, begins with this note.
My Dear Son Hector,
It may come as a shock to read this letter and learn that your father has become the prisoner of a French knight named Sir Denis d’Oc. It was a shock to me, too. Sir Denis is a kind man and lets me stay in his castle instead of in his smelly dungeon, but he won’t let me go home until he receives a ransom of 40 pounds. Since I have spent all of my money on horses and armor, I can’t pay him. But I do have a plan. I have written a book that tells you everything you need to know to become a knight yourself. I am sending it to you with this letter. Make good use of it, for when you come to rescue me, I shall expect to meet not the little boy I left four years ago but a fine, strong knight whom I will be proud to have at my side. Your loving father,
Sir Geoffrey de Lance
Castle d’Oc, AD 1359
Sir Geoffrey then guides his son through the perilous quest for knighthood. He instructs Hector on the use of battle arms – lances, broadswords, daggers, crossbows, misericords, and longbows – explaining their strengths and weaknesses. He urges his son to master their use; to be strong and agile, always practicing with diligence. He outlines basic strategies of siege warfare and gives experienced observations on how to erect an impregnable castle. He encourages his son to learn from the lives of great knights and to never be distracted from his duties. He closes with these words
“My son, you have now learned all that I have to teach you about being a knight. Do not forget that, above all, a knight is brave and follows the code of chivalry to the letter.”
Aside from the fascinating content, this book is filled with pop-ups, pull-outs, and flip-opens. My favorites are the castle entryway, the flip-out books, and the knight’s helmet pictured below.
How to Be a Knight also contains accounts of historic battles, castles, and knights. It even has a flip-out dedicated to the recognizing and interpreting of heraldry.
Even though I loved this book, I still have a few cautions.
Chapter 10, which is entitled The Quest – Riding to Adventure contains ‘A Book of Very Daring & Dangerous Quests’. Included are pictures and descriptions of giants, dragons, witches, and sea monsters. There is no doubt that some of these creatures actually did exist, but if you prefer to minimize awareness of ogres and wizards this can be solved by taping down the cover.
Chapter 11, entitled Peacetime – Feasting and Storytelling contains the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight which, while appropriate for older children, contains magic and a few other mature elements. This too can be solved by taping the cover.
Chapter 13, Famous Knights – Heroes of Yore includes a flip-out story of Sir Launcelot and the Dolorous Garde, which includes magic.
The de Lance coat of arms is borne by a wild man and a wyvern.
Conclusion. I generally try not to go into superlatives over a book – especially not in my reviews. I find that it weakens rather than strengthens the recommendation. But I love, love, love this book! It is the most engaging book of children’s history that I have ever discovered.
Rules of Chivalry (Taken from Pg. 28)
Respect those who are weaker than you. Help them and defend them.
Be generous, unselfish, and bountiful.
Love the country in which you were born. Always do your duty.
Never recoil from an enemy’s advance.
Remember above all that you must be the champion of Right and Good against
Injustice and Evil.
Review © 2012 Laura Verret