Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
O'Brien (illus. of A Pirate's Life for Me!) travels back to the age of chivalry, tracing the gradual metamorphosis of an English boy from lowly seven-year-old page to 14-year-old squire to a knight at 21. Despite the workmanlike prose, the narrative form works well here to hold interest and provide cohesiveness to the many nuggets of information served up. Readers learn about tournaments, feasts, 15th-century manners and customs, and the training in archery, sword-fighting and horsemanship (as well as in reading, writing and music) typically required of an aspiring knight. O'Brien crafts an intriguing visual mix, alternating full-page oil paintings with smaller vignettes and captioned close-ups--of horses, weaponry, falcons and the like. The artist uses light and shadow to good advantage, creating high drama (e.g., shafts of sunlight stream through an unseen window onto the kneeling youth as he is knighted), and he invests the pages with a sense of movement, from banners and flags streaming in the wind to the dust kicked up by thundering hooves. A robust blend of pageantry, derring-do and a wee bit of romance. All ages. (July)
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
In the Middle Ages, young boys like James dreamt of becoming knights; at the age of seven, James is sent from his home to live with another noble family. There he serves as a page and then as squire to a knight. If he learns all his lessons and proves his mettle, at age twenty-one he too will become a knight. The lessons include reading and writing, because a knight composed poems and love songs to win a lady's hand. Castle life, weaponry, and the danger as well as the glory of knighthood are all depicted in glowing oils. James achieves his dream and sets off in search of his own adventure and fortune.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-Readers follow young Sir James to knighthood in this informative picture book. He begins his journey at age seven as a page, working his way up to squire and, after proving himself brave in battle, a knight. Children step into the world of the 1400s, complete with kings, queens, ladies, castles, and silken flags flying. As the boy learns about serving the king, chivalry, weapons, and suiting up for battle, youngsters are treated to captionlike asides that add details on life in the Middle Ages. This book has it all: battles, lavish dinners, jousting, and even romance. It is generously illustrated with detailed oil paintings. O'Brien has done his research; the story and illustrations fittingly portray England of yore. One minor protest: female characters haven't much of a role in this book other than as romantic objects. Still, youngsters clamoring for tales of knights will be pleased to find this accessible volume and may be encouraged to do further reading.-Angela J. Reynolds, West Slope Community Library, Portland, OR
An excellent primer for all those eager to be a knight, even if they are 500 years too late. James is made a page at Lord Hawkes's castle when he is seven; O'Brien, in his first solo outing, explains James's duties as he gradually advances first to squiredom, and then to knighthood when he is 21. His education is sweeping, including swordplay but also music; James must learn to behave with propriety and dignityþhe can't simply study, but must embrace, the manners, rituals, and code of chivalryþand he has to display pluck and courage in both war and tournaments. O'Brien complements the story with numerous asides that lend veracity to the tale, on, for example, different types of armor donned by knights (jousting, battle, parade) and the various horses they employ (destriers, coursers, palfreys). A modest love story becomes part of the proceedings, suspended when James becomes a knight-errant. An excellent story, full of information, and the fine oil paintings bring polish to the days of James's journey and make them palpable. (Picture book. 7-10)