Chapter Books – Robin’s Country

In medieval England, Dummy – so called because he is unable to speak – is mistreated by his master. After a particularly brutal beating, he runs away, escaping into the dangerous Sherwood Forest. He falls – literally – in with Robin’s band of Merry Men. At first suspicious, Robin and Marion eventually warm up to the young lad, and he becomes a part of the band of outlaws. At Robin’s side he witnesses several of the famous escapades of the man who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. Eventually, he finds both his voice and his true home.

The characterizations are fairly simple, which might be a reflection of the reading level and emotional development of the intended audience. However, it seems odd that there is almost no discussion about the reasons why “Dummy” is unable to speak, or speculation as to whether it is a result of an earlier trauma. Most children are probably unaware of the ways intense trauma (which is only hinted at in the statement that his parents were killed) might affect someone’s voice or sense of self.

Something that irritated me out of all proportion to its signifigance: Marion, in teaching Dummy how to shoot, advises that he close one eye while aiming. As an avid archer, I know that it is entirely unnecessary to close one of your eyes, and most of the best archers use both of their eyes, despite the popular myth – probably due to conflation with rifle aiming – that you should close one eye. This obviously had nothing to do with the quality of writing of the book, but I feel compelled to mention it anyway.

There are no terribly new surprises here for fans of the Robin Hood legend, with fairly straightforward retellings of the most well-known scenes. The fact that Dummy is actually the son of a rich lord is telegraphed pretty heavily almost from the first page, so it is not much of a surprise when he learns this fact in the last chapter. Although not an essential read, it is a fun book. The story moves along quickly, and the characters are likable and entertaining. Anyone who is already one of Robin Hood’s legion of admirers will enjoy the work, and it may well serve to introduce children unfamiliar with the legend to the wide variety of available resources about Robin Hood.

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