Tag: legend

The Adventures of Robin Hood | Roger Lancelyn Green

Our two oldest daughters do not like movies. The call, “Let’s watch a movie!” is enough to make one of them flee, no matter how much popcorn we throw in to sweeten the deal. The other maintains an interested distance, watching wide-eyed from the doorway as we settle onto the couch.

I understand this. I, too, prefer the slower, less stimulating pace of a good book to the exhausting speed of cinema, and for a variety of reasons. But their father would like to watch Star Wars with them one day, and he’d like to do it without one of them buried in his armpit, trembling, while the other one cowers in the next room. And so we began a campaign. We call it “The Get the Girls to Like Movies Campaign.”

Our strategy is simple: Watch a movie or two a month until we find one that they actually like. Find more movies like that one. And so on.

The Adventures of Robin Hood | Little Book, Big Story

We struck out a few times (having forgotten how terrifying Pixar movies can be), but this month, at last, we succeeded! We won them over with a movie  pulled from the murky depths of our own childhoods—one whose success with our daughters surprised even us: Disney’s 1973 movie, Robin Hood. We hoped they would at least tolerate it, but a few minutes into the film it became apparent that they had already moved to a deeper level of affection: they loved it.

They now both answer to Maid Marian, have both announced their intentions to have Robin Hood-themed birthday parties and have taken a renewed interest in the bows they received for Christmas. When I told them that Robin Hood is also a book—and not only that, but a book that we have right here in our house—they looked at me like I had just announced that we shall, henceforth, eat only ice cream for breakfast.

Maid Marian in Training | Little Book, Big Story

Obviously, we started reading the book together.

Have you read The Adventures of Robin Hood? I had. And I have to admit, I had read it since starting this blog and decided, on the first read through, not to include it here. I so badly wanted the book to end after Chapter 21 (“King Richard came back and they got married! The End”), but the story goes on for two more heartbreaking chapters while everything that I loved about the book until that point slowly bled out of the story by the last page.

Maid Marian in Training | Little Book, Big Story

After reading through it again, though, I loved those first twenty-one chapters so much that I decided to include it here with a simple warning: if you do not want to end the story with a deflated whump, stop at the end of Chapter 21. It pains me a little to recommend that, because I am usually the sort to read not only the entire book, whether I liked it or not—I have been won over by many books with slow openings that way—but also the acknowledgements, notes, and author interview at the back (if available). I am thorough and a little obsessive about this.

The Adventures of Robin Hood | Little Book, Big Story

But enough about that. Now I will tell you why I love (the first twenty-one chapters of) The Adventures of Robin Hood:

Robin Hood. Robin gives up everything he has—lands, title, marriage, wealth—in order to fight for his absent king and care for his down-trodden neighbors, but he is not self-righteous or obnoxiously perfect. He is likable, bold, and gentleman enough to laugh when fairly beaten. (I like that in a hero.)

Maid Marian. You may remember her as the good-natured, long-lashed fox from the cartoon, but that, my friends, is just one paltry interpretation of her character. In Green’s book, she is “tall and beautiful, but strong and fearless also, a very fitting wife for such a man [as Robin].” This lovely lady is an expert archer and wields a sword with as much mastery as Robin himself, but she is also a gracious hostess, virtuous maiden, and loving but strong-willed daughter. I adore pretty much everything about her and prefer her, hands down, to King Arthur‘s Guinevere any day.

The Adventures! The whole notion of living in the nooks and crannies of Sherwood Forest while fighting for the sake of the rightful king is deeply appealing to me as well as to my daughters. How we love reading about Little John, Friar Tuck, the despicable Prince John! How we long for those moments when Robin Hood throws off his disguise and saves the day!

These stories have been told again and again by poets, authors and filmmakers, but I do love the elegance and excitement that Roger Lancelyn Green weaves into his version. As I said earlier, this book is not perfect—ending aside, it is a little uneven in places—but Green captures the energy and humor of the stories in a beautiful way, and while the language is fairly advanced, I have been surprised at how much both of our girls, at six and four, pick up and enjoy from each story. (I have taken to retelling Robin’s adventures as bedtime stories, though, just to be sure.)


The Adventures of Robin Hood
Roger Lancelyn Green (1956)

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table | Roger Lancelyn Green

Merlin and Morgan le Fay have become household names around here, not because of any particular affinity on our part for Camelot, but because Lydia is currently smitten with the books in the Magic Treehouse series, in which Merlin and Morgan le Fay appear as sidekicks of a sort to the time-travelling protagonists. This fact inspired me to brush up on Arthurian legend, because, contrary to the Magic Treehouse interpretation of the characters, I didn’t remember Merlin being the sort of fellow who typically relied on the help of eight-year-old children (I had yet to read The Once and Future King) and because I remembered Morgan le Fay as being, well, evil.

And so I read King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, and found myself caught up in the golden age of chivalry, where the grass of Britain was emerald green, the knights thundered about on their horses, armor clinking, and the damsels suffered perpetual distress. Roger Lancelyn Green (one of the Inklings, by the way) writes beautifully, retelling the old, old stories of Arthur and company with a sweeping, noble air, and doing justice to the depth of characters like Launcelot, noble but broken, or Galahad in his seeming perfection, as they ride off on their famous adventures to battle wicked knights and quest for the Holy Grail.

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table, by Roger Lancelyn Green | Little Book, Big Story

This is, in effect, a collection of stories about Arthur and his knights, shepherded under the banner of a common narrative, so while it’s a lovely read straight through, it’s easy to pick and choose the stories that your child might enjoy if you don’t feel they’re quite ready for some of the more—ahem—mature content yet. One of the major subplots in this book is adultery, after all, and there is quite a lot of beheading and severing of limbs and such, but this telling is geared toward children, so the content is handled gracefully. But if you’re just not ready to introduce certain topics to your child or find that, as in our house, there’s not a huge demand for stories about knights and chivalry, you can pick and choose your tales.

I read the first half of “The Sword in the Stone” to Lydia, mostly because I wanted to her to be familiar with at least part of the original story of Morgan le Fay and Merlin, and she enjoyed it in a polite sort of way before going back to her Magic Treehouse books. I, in turn, went back to The Once and Future King, which I had started reading immediately after finishing King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table—because it seems that I have developed an affinity for Camelot after all.


King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table
Roger Lancelyn Green (1953)

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland | Tomie dePaola

Pop quiz: in twenty words or less, why do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

If your answer is full of elipses and mumbled words like “leprecans,” “Ireland” or “some dude named Patrick,” then you’re sitting in the same boat I was before I came across Patrick: the Patron Saint of Ireland.


A few months back, it occurred to me that a number of our holidays are based upon some fascinating figures in church history, figures with challenging and inspiring stories that have, for the most part, been overshadowed by frothy glasses of Guinness and conversation hearts. So when I gave some thought to how we would celebrate these holidays in our family, I found the answer right there on the calendar in front of me: St. Patrick. Who was that guy, anyway?

And that is where Tomie dePaola comes in.

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland | Little Book, Big Story

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland tells the story of Patrick’s life, neatly divided into biography—and one full of adventure, at that—and legend, as dePaola uses the latter pages of the book to detail the different legends surrounding the life of Patrick. It is, of course illustrated in dePaola’s unique style, and the pictures tell the story with as much punch and detail as the narrative.

This is a great book to read around St. Patrick’s Day, yes, but it makes for fascinating reading all year round, as it provides you with an opportunity to teach your little one about the saints that have gone before us.

Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland | Little Book, Big Story


Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland
Tomie de Paola (1994)