We just finished reading this book together – The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow by Allen French (published by Bethlehem Books). At the completion of each evenings portion of reading the boys would bemoan the fact that I was stopping. One evening as I put the book down the six year old cried; “Mommy, it’s like you are giving us yummy ice cream and snatching it away half way through – you MUST finish!”
I picked up this living history book at a yard sale a while ago and have kept it on my shelf of “books I should read to the boys.” A few weeks ago we were ready for a new read aloud and I picked this one up – I knew it took place during our current history study period (Middle Ages) and I knew it was an Icelandic saga, rich in history. But that was all I knew of the book when I started reading it. I didn’t even read the back cover to find out the story line.
About 1/4 of the way through the book I was fairly certain I knew the story line. I realized I hadn’t read the back cover and was shocked to discover what events were unfolding on the back … I hadn’t seen the tragic events unfolding as they were laid out there. I think I shall try reading more books without reading the back cover.
Without divulging the story line (as I highly recommend just reading the story without knowing what is to come) I will say that this book reveals a depth of character in Rolf that is to be admired. A boy forced into the role of a man who rises to the occasion and hardships that are put upon his shoulders without complaint. I appreciate books that develop characters that exemplify good role models and their counterpart of what you don’t want to be – and this book excellently portrays the depths of both. It is a wonderful book to capture the imagination of boys, and I plan on revisiting it when they hit middle school for a personal reading assignment.
Allen French is an excellent story teller and has a wonderful way of drawing you in to his story – the characters become friends, and the highs and lows of the them are felt by the reader(s).
The book was a bit of a challenge to read out loud given the “thees” and “thous” and “quoth” expressions sprinkled generously throughout – there were many times where I changed the wording slightly to make it flow more naturally and for the sake of clarity for my 6 and 8 year old audience. There is not much worse than being mid sentence and having a child interrupting to know what something means. (So maybe there is a lot worse … but it totally messes with my read aloud flow and I try to scan ahead and reword things to minimize interruptions!)
As with most stories I read them, I stopped reading every few paragraphs to have them tell me what they understood was happening in the story – this process of narration is painless and keeps them tuned in to the story, as no part of it is missed with the constant repetition of story line. I have found this part of the Charlotte Mason education style to be most useful in keeping young minds attentive to the happenings in a read aloud story.