"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."

Borges

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Raleigh's Page


Raleigh’s Page

Author: Alan Armstrong

Illustrator: Tim Jessell

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

ISBN-10: 0375833196
ISBN-13: 978-0375833199

Raleigh’s Page is the riveting story of Andrew, a young boy sent to be a page to his father’s old friend Walter Raleigh. Yeah that Walter Raleigh - throw his pearl studded cloak on a puddle for Queen Elizabeth of England to walk on Walter Raleigh. Pretty cool, no? I was always fascinated by that story but didn't really know much about him other than the usual middle school page in a history book.


Andrew goes to live in Raleigh's estate along with two other boys who are already serving as pages to him. He is fascinated by all the newness but misses his family. One of the boys is cruel but the other is a good friend to him. Andrew, the farmer's son makes a great friend in the French gardener and becomes his apprentice. Together they learn of strange plants from other lands and prepare for the New World.


Raleigh himself is an interesting character in this book. I was fascinated by his excitement and verve. Walter Raleigh is a high energy, intelligent and purposeful man in this book. His way of teaching the children in his care is also fascinating. He plans secret trials that not only test the boy's writing, business acumen and other abilities but he tests the strength of their character. Interesting.


Andrew, being a solid farm boy with good values and a strong character shines in this story. He's a normal boy with hopes and dreams and fears, yet he consistently rises to any occasion, whether it be spying, carrying secret documents or venturing out to the New World. He meets the mysterious Dr. Dee, the Queen's own astrologer among other characters that populate this book.


Ah yes, Raleigh is planning a big trip to the colony of Virginia - the first expedition to Roanoke and Andrew is determined to go along. The story gets even more interesting once Raleigh's ship actually gets to Virginia. Alan Armstrong writes a great tale full of intrigue, adventure, compassion and understanding.


Raleigh's Page is one heck of a great read. The marvelous illustrations by Tim Jessell give depth to the story and a flavor for the time period in which it is set. One of my favorite illustrations is one of Walter Raleigh almost bursting with excitement.


Book Description from the publisher:
Andrew has grown up near the Plymouth docks hearing the sailors talk about America. Knowing that Andrew's heart is set on going to the new world, his father sends him up to London to serve as page in the house of Walter Raleigh. In Queen Elizabeth's court, Raleigh's the strongest voice in favor of fighting with Spain for a position in the New World, and everyone knows that it's just a matter of time before Her Majesty agrees to an expedition. Can Andrew prove himself fit to go on an expedition to the New World?

Meticulously researched and brilliantly crafted, combining fictional characters with historical, Andrew's tale offers up a vivid look at the cloak and dagger politics of the time and a genuine feel for what it must have been like for the first Europeans to set foot on the beautiful, bountiful, savage shores of America.

About the Author
Alan Armstrong's first book, Whittington, was awarded the Newbery Honor in 2006. He lives in Massachusetts with his wife, Martha, a painter.

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