Book Meme: Mel’s Day Twenty-One

Book Meme Challenge:

Your Favorite Book from Childhood

There were many books from my childhood; my parents made it a point to read to us often. Bedtime ritual began with family prayers, and then everyone piled into mom and dad’s bed to listen to whatever tale dad was reading. My favorite part of car-trips was when mom would read.

In this was we worked our way through the Chronicles of Narnia, the Prydain Chronicles, My Antonia, The Hobbit, Wooster & JeevesFather Brown Mysteries, and many more.

But I can narrow it down to two books. Both of which were read so frequently that they would fall apart and we would have to acquire fresh copes every several years.

The Kitchen Knight

By Margaret Hodges,
Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

This book is simply gorgeous. Ms. Hyman is an astounding artist, and it is her artwork that brings this Arthurian Legend to life. The tale of the angry woman and the patient knight, the captive lady and the mean knight, was fascinating. But it was the clothes, the movement of the figures, the exquisite little images in the frames around the larger paintings that first stirred my love of Things Medieval.

In fact, my sympathy for and love of the grumpy Lady Lynette later made me search all the Arthurian legends that I could lay my hands on until I found a version where Lynnette marries the good Knight Gareth.

And if I ever write a fantasy novel, it will be based on this tale.

Every child needs this book.

The Red Keep

By Allen French

This is the adventure that cemented my interest in historical fact. Before this, I considered history to be fairly good as a setting for stories but not very fascinating in its own right. But this books paints a living and dramatic image of the virtues and flaws of a feudal society.

Within a small geographical space, the struggle of Right and Wrong have epic proportion. Young Conan, on his path to knighthood, comes up against the barbaric cruelty of the power-hungry Sauval brothers. Despite the fact that he is proud and not extremely bright, Conan fights to protect his small corner of Burgundy from being overrun. To do so he must reclaim the strategically placed ruined castle that belongs to his childhood friend Lady Anne.

And so by humbling himself, learning to use his mind, and making friends with the tradesmen, workmen, and peasants, Conan set in motion the means of bringing justice back to the land. All in a quite realistic and even historically probable way.

There is sword-fighting, secret tunnels, subterfuge, clever intrigue, noble spirits, heroic battles, an awesome heroine, The Judgement of God, suspense, and real Chivalry. Also, twoo wuuv!

 The Red Keep was written a History professor, and it is packed full of amazing details about life in the twelfth century France. The story is difficult to put down, (cries of “DAD! Just one more chapter!” were heard every night,) and the characters became our real friends. Later we would draw maps of the country and the Keep, trying to map out all the movements and strategies.

Add to this the judicious sprinkling of words like “thews,” “hauberk,” and “chatelaine,” and this book is a literary playground. And one that I still revisit. Whenever we have a serviceable copy in the house.


One thought on “Book Meme: Mel’s Day Twenty-One

  1. Oh yeah, I’d forgotten you’d written about this book! Mostly I remembered you mentioning The Kitchen Knight, which blew my mind because the only Trina Schart Hyman/Margaret Hodges book I knew of was St. George and the Dragon. But now, from being reminded by this and the 2012 meme, I am adding The Red Keep to my reading list.

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