HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Apple and the Arrow: The Legend of William Tell
Authors: Mary and Conrad Buff
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, republished in 2001
ISBN-13: 978-0618128075 (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0618128077 (Hardcover)
ISBN-13: 978-0618128099 (Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0618128093 (Paperback)
Related website: http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 8 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Buff, Mary and Conrad. The Apple and the Arrow: The Legend of William Tell (published in 1951 by the Houghton Mifflin Company 215 Park Ave. S., New York City, NY 10003). It is the year 1290 and eleven-soon-to-be-twelve-year-old Walter Tell lives happily in the remote heights of the Swiss Alpine Mountains near the village of Burglen with his father William, who is known as the greatest bowman in the canton of Uri and perhaps even in the nearby cantons of Schwys and Underwalden, his mother Hedwig, his little brother Rudi, and their herd dog Prinz. Nearby also live their friend Marie the herd girl, Brother Klaus the monk, and Grandfather Furst. King Albrecht is the new ruler of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, but unlike his late good father Rudolph he sends cruel bailiffs like Gessler to live at nearby Altdorf and oppress the people.
William Tell is one of 33 men who have met secretly at Rootli to formulate a plan to secure their freedom at the beginning of 1291. But it appears that Gessler suspects something. I suppose that nearly everyone has heard the story of how William and Walter go to Altdorf to sell furs. Tell refuses to bow down to Gessler’s cap which has been put on a pole in the middle of the town. Gessler is so angry that he punishes Tell by commanding him to shoot an apple off the head of his son. If he misses, both will die. But do you know “the rest of the story”? The legend of William Tell has survived for more than 700 years. Exactly how much of it is true and how much is fiction perhaps no one knows. But it is certainly a stirring account that resonates in the hearts of all people who love freedom and oppose tyranny.
Told simply and well with a good eye for detail and setting from the viewpoint of young Walter, The Apple and the Arrow, which won a Newbery Honor Award in 1952, was first recommended to me in the catalogue of Love to Learn, a homeschool resource center. One reference to drinking wine occurs, but there is a great deal of emphasis on looking to God for guidance and trusting in Him. With its serious themes of independence and responsibility, it will appeal to both children, especially boys, and their parents. Conrad Buff was born in Switzerland in 1886, studied art in his native country and Germany, them emigrated to the United States in 1904, settling in Los Angeles, where he became a noted landscape artist. Along with his wife Mary, he coauthored and illustrated a number of children’s books. Another Newbery Honor book (1931) which recounts the same events is Mountains Are Free by Julia Davis Adams.