1943: Adam of the Road (Minstrelsy in Medieval England)

VERDICT: Treasure

Laurinda’s Rating: 3

Adam of the Road, the 1943 Newbery Medal Winner, tells the tale of Adam, a young minstrel growing up in 1294. The book opens at St. Alban’s, where Adam’s father Roger left him over the winter. Roger soon reappears, and, on Bayard the war horse, Adam and his spaniel Nick set off to one of their patron’s estates. Adam interacts with a wide sector of society, everyone from the blacksmith to his patron’s nephew.

The adventures truly begin when a scurrilous fellow minstrel steals Nick. Adam loses Roger while chasing the thief and spends several months traipsing about England alone looking for Nick. He swims a river, nearly drowns and makes friends with the ferryman. He travels with a spice merchant and rescues him after they’re robbed by bandits. Adam makes it the city where he expected to find his father, but falls off a wall while watching a religious play called The Fall of Adam, cracking his skull in the process. Nursed back to health by a vicar and his sister, Adam eventually becomes entangled with a troupe of poor, thieving musicians. He eventually makes his way back to the London estate of his patron, before finding his dog at Oxford with a friend. Roger finds him there.

Much like Call It Courage, I don’t have a strong opinion about this book. It reads fairly quickly – I got 320 pages done in about 2.5 hours. The historical parts aren’t egregiously bad. It’s not a time period I’ve studied in extensive detail, but the broad trends, types of people Adam encounters, and living conditions match with what I know. Nick, the cute performing red spaniel, adds interest to the book with his diverting antics. Further, Adam’s interactions with varied folks read as genuine – I wasn’t groaning that the author was making him encounter all classes of society. They’re well integrated into the plot. For a kid who enjoys historical fiction, this would be a decent choice. There was enough adventure to keep me interested but still a moderately developed plot and characters. Not my favorite, but not too bad, either.

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