The Ravenmaster's Secret: Escape from the Tower of London

The Ravenmaster's Secret: Escape from the Tower of London

by Elvira Woodruff, Margot Griffin

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Forrest lives at the Tower of London prison, where his father tends the Tower ravens and guards inmates. Forrest's only friends are his pet raven, his father's prisoners (who all end up dead), and Ned, the young rat catcher. Soon Forrest's father gets a new prisoner: Maddie, the beautiful daughter of a Scottish spy. Immediately Forrest and Maddie become friends. But… See more details below

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Forrest lives at the Tower of London prison, where his father tends the Tower ravens and guards inmates. Forrest's only friends are his pet raven, his father's prisoners (who all end up dead), and Ned, the young rat catcher. Soon Forrest's father gets a new prisoner: Maddie, the beautiful daughter of a Scottish spy. Immediately Forrest and Maddie become friends. But when she is slated for execution, Forrest must make some painful choices: Should he commit treason to help her escape, or obey the law and let his innocent friend be hung?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Opening in 1735, Woodruff's (Dear Levi) historical novel has much to say about the nature of war, judgment and prejudice. Eleven-year-old Forrest lives with his family in the Tower of London, where his father serves as Ravenmaster, tending to the royal birds and keeping watch over whatever prisoners come his way. When one of a trio of captured Scottish rebels is placed in their care, Forrest, who has been raised to believe the Scots are devils, is hostile at first ("She's not like you and me," Forrest says to his best friend, Rat, about an imprisoned Scottish countess, "for she is not English. She's a Scot"). But the new prisoner is a girl, Maddy, the daughter of a rebel leader, and in the course of bringing Maddy her meals, he begins to see that she is in fact very much like him. Forrest begins to question everything he believes and, with the help of Rat (who seems headed for a dismal fate as a chimneysweep's "climber"), Forrest helps stage a risky escape for both Rat and Maddy. The resulting chase offers a spirited wrap-up, yet what readers may find even more engrossing is Forrest and Maddy's growing sense of empathy and understanding as they realize the shaky ground on which their prejudices are built. The period touches will fascinate readers, too-from the stench of the moat to Forrest's mother's thrill at a public hanging. A colorful tale. Ages 8-12. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Eleven-year-old Forest Harper leads a life unlike most other boys growing up in 17th century England. As the son of the prestigious royal Ravenmaster, who is responsible both for guarding the prisoners of the infamous Tower of London and for caring for the nine legendary ravens that reside within the Tower's wall, Forest has grown up under the shadow of "The Bloody Tower" all of his life. As an inhabitant of the Tower, Forest has difficulty igniting common boyhood friendships, and his only friends are a rat catcher named Ned, whose work supplying food for the ravens often brings him by the Tower, and his favorite raven, Tuck, who stays constantly by his side. All of his life, Forest has dreamt of one day escaping the stifling walls of the Tower and "proving his courage" to the world in wild and fantastic adventures and battles, which he envisions in his imagination through the use of an old, clouded spyglass. When a young and beautiful Jacobite prisoner implores Forrest for his help before she is sent to the gallows, he finally gets his chance. Woodruff prefaces her novel with a historical background to facilitate comprehension for her younger readers, and also adjoins a glossary of 17th century terms for further understanding. A riveting, emotional plot, set within a surprisingly historically accurate context makes for an appealing and intellectual read. 2003, Scholastic, Ages 12 up.
—Ronnie Ficco
In 1735, eleven-year-old Forrest Harper, the Ravenmaster's son, lives at the Tower of London with his family. He helps his father care for the ravens and prisoners who live there. When he hears that a Jacobite rebel from Scotland is to arrive, Forrest is thrilled, certain that the local bullies will be impressed when he tends to a vicious prisoner. His hopes are dashed when the Jacobite turns out to be Maddy, a pretty Scottish girl of noble birth. His disgust fades as Maddy's courage and stories of her homeland belie the common concept that all Scots are uncouth monsters. Maddy becomes his friend, but she is a traitor to the crown and is sentenced to beheading. Set in the dramatic time of Bonny Prince Charlie, this story brings fire and life to history. Period details are interwoven so deftly that the reader is immersed in the era. Readers visit collar day, when crowds eagerly gather for a hanging. They feel Forrest's shame when he vomits at the spectacle, prompting the bullies to deem him a sissy. They smell the stench of raw waste in the Thames and the unwashed state common to most of the populace. This compelling story portrays a boy who must do what he feels is right, as he faces moral dilemmas that would confound most adults. Woodruff creates realistic characters with whom modern audiences will empathize and sets them in a fascinating period that is certain to enthrall readers. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2003, Scholastic, 225p., Ages 11 to 14.
—Heather Pittman
"Chores, chores and more chores," Forrest complained (p.1), a very typical phrase we hear from young and not-so-young people. The Ravenmaster's Secret is one truly interesting story that will keep your eyes glued on each page to find out what happens to 11-year old Forrest Harper. He is the son to one of the Tower's guards (Yeoman Warders), who lives in a small cottage tucked in the outer walls of the Tower of London. In the beginning of the story, Forrest complains about nearly everything. He wants to go outside the Tower to prove his courage—where no bullies will make fun of him and he can explore different worlds. His daily chores include taking care of ravens kept in the Tower to prevent them from leaving; it is believed that when the ravens leave the Tower, the Tower will fall into the enemy's hands. The position requires a responsible, patient, steadfastness, and keen-eyed person who can gain their trust and understand their ways. Forrest seems to be the perfect candidate for the job. But the curiosity for exploring the world with his best friend, Rat, just seems to be getting further and further away. His great adventures in London's most feared prison do not satisfy his hunger for adventure until he meets Maddy, a Scottish 11-year-old rebel imprisoned in the tower. After learning about the unfairness of his king, Forrest is confused about his destiny. Should he commit treason by helping Maddy escape? Or should he obey the law and allow his innocent friend to be executed? 2003, Scholastic Press, 240 pp., Ages young adult. Reviewer: Patricia Villanueva
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Eleven-year-old Forrest is the son of the Ravenmaster in the Tower of London. Historically, this position, which fell to one of the Tower guards, was to care for the ravens that live within the walls of the fortress as a token of luck to keep it from falling to its enemies. Forrest has grown up in the Tower and has his own pet raven, Tuck. He feels confined and sheltered from the outside world. Bullies make fun of him. When dangerous Scottish rebels are captured and imprisoned, he hopes to show his bravery. His responsibility, however, turns out to be to take food to the young daughter of one of the rebels. As he learns more about Maddy, he comes to admire and respect her, and realizes that if he does not help her escape, she will be executed. To do so, though, he will have to go against all he has been taught. The story has its share of suspense, excitement, and interesting characters. Set in 1735, it does not flinch from describing the brutality of the time, including public hangings, which Forrest's mother loves to attend. While some of the plot elements may seem unrealistic and the ending too pat, the story is certainly satisfying. Its message of judging people on their own merits and not on the basis of stereotypes comes across strongly. An author's note, a history of the Tower of London, and a glossary of unfamiliar English and Scottish words are appended.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A young boy aids a prison escape in this adventurous historical fiction. Forrest lives at the Tower of London, which in 1735 has a jail and execution grounds. He helps his Ravenmaster father bring food to their prisoner and tend the Tower birds. When their newest prisoner turns out to be the faithful daughter of a Scottish Jacobite rebel, Forrest begins to question the terrible things he's always heard about Scots. He befriends Maddy, and when her father and uncle are murdered trying to escape, he swears to help her-despite an inevitable treason conviction if he's caught. Pet raven Tuck and loyal chimney-sweep Ned figure into Maddy's escape, and the neat ending is not unwelcome after unpleasant details of indentured children, adult corruption, and merciless law. Occasional cheapness ("'there would surely be no war'" if children never grew up) is outweighed by courage, friendship, and the earnest, fast-moving story. (map, author's note, history of the Tower, glossary, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 9-12)

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Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.94(d)
750L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

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