Adam of the Road
Elizabeth Janet Gray (Juvenile Fiction)
Three things gave Adam Quartermayne comfort: his harp, his friend Perkin, and his dog Nick. But for five months now, all Adam truly cared about was his father finally coming to take him out of school. “Today he’s coming. I know it!”, Adam would find himself saying over and over again. But his father was Roger the Minstrel, and the open road was his home. Roger will come for him and when he did, together with their harp and viol, they would travel the countryside—entertaining people with their songs and stories. But life is unpredictable and just when Nick had settled into the life he had always dreamed of fate comes along and changes everything.
Elizabeth Janet Gray takes young readers to late thirteenth-century England—a time of Welsh revolt and a period when England’s population boomed and towns and trade expanded. Best of all, it was a time for minstrels and what an important commodity they were. As Gray writes, “When a book cost more than a horse and few could read, minstrels’ tales were almost the only entertainment. Minstrels brought news, too; they told what was going on in the next town, and what was happening in London, and where the king was.” Gray transports her readers to a time filled with wine (the hot spiced wine is particularly pleasant), women (Jill Ferryman was especially goodhearted and kind), and song. Lots and lots of song! She gives us an adventure for the ages filled with robbers, thieves, narrow escapes, dastardly deeds, and daring-dos.
At the heart of this book is eleven-year old Adam, whose solid moral center, resilience, loyalty, bravery, and kindness make him the ideal protagonist. He understands that stealing food—regardless of the degree of hunger—is wrong and that showing genuine appreciation for an otherwise undesirable gift is an admirable trait. More importantly, he shows us the value of faith and family. Time and time again, the reader is reminded that a minstrel’s home is the open road. As Roger once said to Adam, “A road’s a kind of holy thing. 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.” But I think in the end, Adam may have been more in agreement with the Roman philosopher Gaius Plinius Secundus, better known as Pliny the Elder (or just Pliny if you were a close chum). For it was Pliny who gave us the beloved saying, “Home is where the heart is” and Adam’s heart was firmly placed within a master minstrel and a red spaniel with long silky ears. Perhaps Pliny would have made for a rather good minstrel?
*Book cover image attributed to www.christianbook.com
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