Roland Wright: Future Knight by Tony Davis. (Grades 2-4.)
Full disclosure: I picked up an ARC of this title at ALA.
Say a kid comes in to the library and he has to read a historical fiction book for a book report. Maybe this kid doesn't particularly like historical fiction. Maybe he doesn't particularly like reading in general. Well, you might want to hand him Roland Wright: Future Knight.
Roland's a scrappy young boy who has one dream: to become a knight. Even though he knows that it's highly unlikely he'll ever become a page (only noble boys are allowed to become pages and Roland is a blacksmith's son), Roland practices all the time. Then one day, something happens to change everything. Roland gets the chance to becomes page. The catch? Only one of his father's sons will be chosen, so Roland has to compete against his brother. His older, bigger, stronger brother.
The book is an Australian import and it's got its funny moments. Like:
"... many families had to share their house with their animals, particularly when it was cold or wet. Everything would smell of pig and donkey and chicken, except for pigs and donkeys and chickens, which probably smelled of house." (page 3, quote from ARC)
So, it's funny. And who doesn't like knights? More importantly, Tony Davis succeeds at that tricky thing of inserting factual information without it reading like a story that has factual information inserted in. It's all very organic and we learn that to be a knight, you have to be a squire first and to be a squire you have to be a page first. And so on and so forth.
Also of note is that this could be a great book for those building character units that are assigned from time to time. You know, when the kids come in looking for a book about citizenship or respect. With all the knightly chivalry, this book will fit right in with respect or fairness. And it manages to avoid being didactic as well.
Roland Wright: Future Knight is available September 8.