Once upon a time…….there used to be stories of good and evil, ending “and they lived happily ever after”. Dragons that needed slaying, beautiful princesses, adventurous journeys……
Here are some of our favourites:
Pickle Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradfield – whimsical illustrations accompany this endearing tale about which prince ought to marry the princess – readable for the youngest of children, enjoyed by everyone through to grandparents.
Sharing the main storyline, but with text more suitable for longer attention spans, is Jennie Bishop’s The Squire and The Scroll, “a tale of the rewards of a pure heart”. Not at all preachy, it nevertheless teaches deeply and appeals especially (although not exclusively) to boys of all ages. If you’re seeking a female main character look no further than the companion book by the same author, The Princess and the Kiss. It’s never too early to fill children’s minds with noble ideas and lofty ideals.
Neither can it ever be too early to learn the tune we all need to listen to throughout our lives. Max Lucado in The Song of The King makes this idea very accessible even to little minds.
For more inspiring work, turn to Jeff Breumbeau and Gail de Marcken, who have paired up to produce two wonderful, beautiful, challenging selections. The Quiltmaker’s Gift has won wide acclaim including the BOOKsense book of the year award – and with good reason, celebrating the joy of giving. But I enjoy even more the book which was written next (although chronologically is set before the first book), The Quiltmaker’s Journey. This is THE BEST book I have ever seen with a missional theme for children. Not just for kids though – is there an adult who could not be challenged by the text of this book if they opened their hearts?
“Oh just ignore the poor,” one of the Elders said.
“If they wanted to be rich, well, then they shouldn’t have been born poor,” added another.
“Now, my dear,” said a third, “you should know that if you don’t look at those people, then you don’t have to think about them. That’s why we built the wall around us in the first place.”
“Well,” she said. “I can never be happy here with so much when there are so many in the world with so little.”
You’ll have to read the book to see what sacrifices she must make if she wishes to make a difference – and whether she is indeed up to the task.
There are also great fairy tales and fables full of studies of the human condition and just plain fun.
Our favourite Rumpelstiltskin is retold and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.
La Fontaine’s rich man lives in a castle-like home according to illustrator Brian Wildsmith (The Rich Man and the Shoe-maker).
Margaret Hodges’ Saint George and the Dragon has the ability to evoke a little anxiety in smallest hearers, so some discretion is advised. But the book is certainly not to be avoided.
Crossing cultures, Jane Yolen retells the Chinese tale The Emperor and the Kite, and Ed Young illustrates it in a culturally sympathetic fashion.
Finally, we have a pile of books which in my mind are classified as “early mathematical concepts” books. But when I was pulling castle books off the shelf, Mboy8 added these to the pile. And to a non-subject-ified mind, these books are simply more “castle books”.
In How Big is a Foot? Rolf Myller manages to explore the question of standardised measurement while telling a great story.
The remaining half dozen stories are written by Cindy Neuschwander, an American elemntary school teacher who got the idea for the main character, Sir Cumference, while visiting medieval castles in England. Although you wouldn’t read these primarilly for the story-telling aspect (they tend to be somewhat contrived), these books have been captivating for the kids (and to be fair to the author, while the stories might have been stretched around the concepts, the clever naming of characters and ideas means the conecpts do stick in little people’s minds). Everyone wanted to read these books – even at 15 years of age – but it’s the 6-12 year olds who have returned to them time and again.
Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens
Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland
Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone
Sir Cumference and the Isle of Immeter
Sir Cumference and the First Round Table
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi