Friday, June 17, 2011

Adam of the Road (1943)

This was a fun little book.  Actually on the longer side for Newbery awards at 317 pages, but a quick read.  Set in 13th century England, Adam of the Road chronicles a year in the life of Adam, the 11-year-old son of Roger the minstrel.  Adam is set on becoming a minstrel as well.  He sings beautifully and plays the harp as well. A small harp that he carries over his shoulder.  (see photo above) 

Adam's adventure really began when Jankin, a mean-spirited minstrel, stole his dog, Nick.  Adam loved Nick above all but Roger.  Roger and Adam started after him, but eventually got separated.  Many people gave Nick help along the way.  Great characters.  One of the adventures I liked best was when Adam was travelling with a merchant and an errant knight robbed and kidnapped the merchant.  Adam escaped and went for the bailiff for help.  They made a great rescue. 

The author painted a vivid picture of medieval life, although as in Thimble Summer,  I think the children were very lucky in the people they met who helped them.  That seems to be a theme in many of these Newbery books, that there are good people out there who are ready and willing to help children in trouble. 

Some ideas the author brought out, and returned to throughout the book.  "A road's a kind of holy thing.  That's why it's a good work to keep a road in repair, like giving alms to the poor or tending the sick.  It's open to the sun and wind and rain.  It brings all kinds of people and all parts of England together.  And it's home to a minstrel, even though he may happen to be sleeping in a castle." (p. 52)

"All the adventures don't happen in minstrels' tales.  Let the boy keep his eyes open, he may see great things happen, though he won't know it at the time." (p. 117)

There were several great proverbs about living honestly, not being proud, etc.  Here is one I really liked about treating the elderly with respect. 

"If you sit upon the bench
And see before you standing
A trembling old man,
Get up from your seat
And bid him sit down.
Then will he say
A good man taught you first.
Then sit afterward
Beside him, and learn wisdom." (p. 115)

Gray, Elizabeth Janet. Adam of the Road. The Viking Press, 1942.

However, if you are looking on the shelf, it will likely be under VIN.  Apparently, Ms. Gray became Mrs. Vining.  Random fact about her I just learned on Wikipedia.  "During the Allied occupation of Japan after the war, Vining was selected by Emperor Hirohito himself (and not the U.S. government, as is erroneously believed by some) to become a private tutor to Crown Prince Akihito, the heir apparent of the Imperial House of Japan. As part of her teaching program, she arranged for closely-supervised occasions when four Western teen-aged boys in Tokyo would get together to help the crown prince practice English conversation."  (

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