In no particular order, some books and links we’ve been enjoying this week:
Adam of the Road. Newbery-winning middle-grade novel by Elizabeth Janet Gray. We’re only on chapter three so I haven’t much to share about it yet, but it’s delightful so far. Young Adam’s father is Roger the minstrel, and Roger has been off at a respected minstrel school in France while Adam’s attending school at St. Alban’s. And now Roger’s coming back, and I’m guessing from the title that Adam’s hopes will be fulfilled and he’ll be accompaning his father on a journey. Loads of good rich detail here, including, in today’s chapter:
“Sumer Is Icumen In,” a very old English round which I remember learning in a college poetry class. We had to memorize it in Middle English. (I can also still recite the opening of The Canterbury Tales, thanks to Prof. Kraus.) The modern English translation of “the bullock sterteth, the bucke verteth” had, naturally, my nine- and twelve-year-old daughters in hysterics. Scatological humor has no statute of limitations.
I only knew it as a poem, not a musical round, so of course we had to turn to YouTube for help. Here’s a pretty rendition, and here’s a sound file with sheet music for two parts.
Beanie reread the St. Alban chapter of Our Island Story to refresh her memory of that tale, since the book opens on the feast of St. Alban in the town of St. Albans. On a walk, Adam and his friend Perkin pass the crumbling remains of the old Roman buildings from centuries past, and we found pictures of these at Wikipedia.
We’ve been reading bits of Gombrich’s A Little History of the World as well as sections of The Rule of St. Benedict. I looked all over for our copy of The Sailor Who Captured the Sea, a lavishly illustrated picture book that tells the story of the Book of Kells, but it hasn’t turned up yet. (We read it a few months back, though. It’s around somewhere.) Sister Wendy’s The Story of Painting has a nice section on the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels.
We keep returning to this Society for Creative Anachronism Flickr pool for illuminated manuscripts. I am repeatedly astonished by the lovely things people can make. Beanie shares my fascination and is eager to try some of the tutorials at the Gutenberg School for Scribes, another SCA gem.
I had the pleasure of seeing this scroll (scroll down, no pun intended) up close in real life at our visit to Sandra Dodd’s house in Albuquerque last month. It’s a marvel. (I am still kicking myself for forgetting to take pictures during that visit. It was a good lesson for me—I kept my camera close at hand for the whole rest of the trip!)
Yesterday, by chance, Rilla pulled Barbara Cooney’s picture book Chanticleer and the Fox off the shelf, based of course on the Chaucer tale. We meant to read that (again) today but we got distracted by our old timeline, the one Jane and I began in New York in the year 2000 and which graced our wall for the four years we lived in Virginia, filling up with colorful entries. It has been in a roll on top of a cabinet the whole time we’ve lived here in California because I couldn’t find wall space for it. Too many bookcases! But today it occurred to me that it would fit in the living room/dining room if we stretched it all the way across the fireplace. It just barely fits—the dinosaurs wound up tucked behind some bookshelves, but we know they’re there.
ETA: More links & books I forgot in the comments.
Books about the Middle Ages
Heraldry & Illumination Links
More middle ages fun.
• Roger the Herald’s Notes on Blazonry. Wonderful starting point for learning the language of blazonry. Sable, a lion rampant or, in chief azure three stars or. There’s a game set inside a story, for helping you get the lingo down. Huge hit with Beanie.
• design your own coat of arms
• SCA heraldry primer
• Book of Kells
• The Fitzwilliam Museum’s interactive animation about how illuminated manuscripts were made. This is extremely cool.
• SCA Illumination pool at Flickr Examples of recent work by members of the Society for Creative Anachronism. It awes me to see people putting so much care and time into mastering this ancient art. There is some truly stunning work here.
• Gutenberg School for Scribes. A how-to site for people interested in trying their hand at illumination.
• Wynn the Wayward. An SCA scribe doing breathtaking work.
Some Dover activity books have made their way into our middle ages collection.
• Design Your Own Coat of Arms (has been a big hit)
• Life in a Medieval Castle and Village Coloring Book
• Medieval Fashions Coloring Book (there’s a paper dolls version too—these are some of those gorgeous books by Tom Tierney).
May 22, 2010 @ 4:16 pm | Filed under: Books
Earlier this week, Phoebe asked me to recommend books about the middle ages. Jane and I went around the house pulling things off shelves. The timing was perfect, because I’ve been on a bit of a middle ages jag myself, ever since reading The Perilous Gard (so good! read it!!) which though set in Tudor times, at the cusp of Elizabeth’s reign, is a retelling of the medieval Tam Lin ballad. I’ve listened to perhaps a dozen different renditions of Tam Lin over the past few weeks; this one by Bob Hay and the Jolly Beggars.
Here’s a list of the middle-ages-related books we found around the house. There are many other wonderful books about the middle ages, of course. (Rosemary Sutcliffe and Susan Cooper novels come to mind.) Feel free to leave your own lists (or links to your lists) in the comments!
Disclaimer: Not all of these are appropriate for younger children.
** indicates my family’s favorites
HISTORICAL FICTION AND FANTASY
CLASSICAL MEDIEVAL STORIES including Arthurian tales
• Medieval Romances edited by Roger Sherman Loomis & Laura Hibbard Loomis (Perceval, Tristan & Isolt, Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, etc; this was the text for my college Medieval Lit class & has a highly quotable intro, which I shall indeed quote in the next post)
• Favorite Medieval Tales by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Troy Howell (Finn Maccoul, Beowulf, Arthur, Song of Roland, Sir Gawain & the Green Knight; Robin Hood, Chanticleer)**
• The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle
• The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White (Arthur)**
• The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck (based on the Malory)
• The Story of King Arthur by Tom Crawford (Dover Children’s Classics)
• The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (of course!!)
• The Story of the World, Vol. 2: The Middle Ages by Susan Wise Bauer
• How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
• Living Long Ago (Usborne Books, lots of pictures: clothes, customs, housing)
• Famous Men of the Middle Ages by John H. Haaren & A. B. Poland (Attila the Hun, Barbarossa, Clovis, Justinian, etc)**
• A Medieval Feast by Aliki (picture book)**
• The Life of King Alfred by Asser, Bishop of Sherborne (written in Latin around 888AD, translated by J.A. Giles)
NONFICTION, SORT OF (contains legend or considerable fictionalization)
• Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall
• The Sailor Who Captured the Sea by Deborah Nourse Lattimore (picture book: Book of Kells; illuminated manuscripts; monasteries; Vikings attack Ireland) (This maybe belongs just under fiction)
Around the Year: Once Upon a Time Saints by Ethel Pochocki (not all the saints depicted here are medieval, but many are)
Our Island Saints by Amy Steedman
Patrick, Saint of Ireland by Tomie de Paola (picture book; early middle ages)
Tomie de Paola also did picture books about St Francis and Sts Benedict & Scholastica, but I couldn’t find those today)
Brigid’s Cloak by Bryce Milligan, illustrated by Helen Cann
FOLK AND FAIRY TALES WITH A MEDIEVAL FLAVOR
• Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (picture book; although St George predates the middle ages, the dragon legend comes from Spenser’s The Faerie Queen  and is based on medieval writings–the Arthurian stories of Geoffrey of Monmouth ; Hyman’s illustrations have borders reminiscent of illuminated manuscripts)
• Chanticleer and the Fox by Barbara Cooney, based on the story from The Canterbury Tales**
• Heckedy Peg by Don & Audrey Wood (picture book; fairy tale; setting is a medieval village)**
• The Irish Cinder Lad by Shirley Climo, illustrated by Loretta Krupinski (picture book; Irish fairy tale; dragon, castle, princess)
• The Three Sorrowful Tales of Erin by F.M. Pilkington (Irish fairy tales; Children of Lir)
• The King of Ireland’s Son by Padraic Colum (novel-length Irish folk tale)**
OTHER WORKS OF NOTE:
Twain’s bio of St. Joan of Arc
Heaney’s translation of Beowulf
Dante’s Divine Comedy
Stories about Robin Hood (we have several versions
Good Sir Boy of Wonder