Adam Of The Road – Elizabeth Janet Gray
"A road's a kind of holy thing," said Roger the Minstrel to his son, Adam. "That's why it's a good work to keep a road in repair, like giving alms to the poor or tending the sick. It's open to the sun and wind and rain. It brings all kinds of people and all parts of England together. And it's home to a minstrel, even though he may happen to be sleeping in a castle." And Adam, though only eleven, was to remember his father's words when his beloved dog, Nick, was stolen and Roger had disappeared, and he found himself traveling alone along these same great roads, searching the fairs and market towns for his father and his dog.
Review: The plot of this book would be a kid’s dream. The main character gets to wander around England and have adventures every day. That would’ve been my ideal life as a kid. (Well, maybe not the part where I’m cold, exhausted, and hungry. I was a wimpy kid. Still, NO SCHOOL!)
Adam, his father, and their dog are minstrels in thirteenth-century England. They earn a living by traveling around the country, entertaining people with songs and tricks. One night while Adam is sleeping, another minstrel steals the dog. While Adam chases the thief, he gets separated from his father. What follows is a long, crazy adventure full of danger and new friends.
First, I’m very impressed that the author was able to take British history and package it in a way that makes it appealing to kids. I was usually bored out of my mind in history class, but with this book, you don’t even realize you’re learning. The author just casually drops history into an adventure story. Kids get to learn about life in the thirteenth century in a tolerable, bite-sized way. It’s brilliant!
I also like the values that the story teaches. Again, the author blends these seamlessly into Adam’s adventure, so the reader never feels like they’re getting bashed over the head with a moral. Adam meets a lot of people while he searches for his dog and his father. He learns that being kind will get you farther than lying and stealing.
Adam is a fun character. He’s a bit arrogant, but he’s very self-reliant for an eleven-year-old. No matter what happens on his journey, he’ll find a way to get through it. He also knows himself well. He’s determined to become a famous minstrel like his father. Becoming a good minstrel takes years of practice and memorization, but Adam isn’t afraid to work for what he wants.
I think I would’ve loved this book as a kid. It contains dogs, traveling, and children who have minimal parental supervision. That’s everything child-me would’ve wanted in a book.
But, since I’m an adult, I found Adam of the Road a little tedious. To an adult reader, it’s obvious that everything in the story will work out in the end. Adam will reunite with his father and his dog. The plot is very episodic. Adam walks to a town, something goes wrong, he walks to a different town, something goes wrong. Repeat for 300 pages. (There’s a lot of walking in this story.) I was ready for the book to be over long before I got to the end.
I also wondered why Adam calls his father “Roger” instead of “Dad.” Was that ever explained? Is there a historical reason for it?
This book might not have enough tension to keep an adult entertained, but I recommend it to any kid who likes history or adventure stories.