HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Mountains Are Free
Author: Julia Davis Adams
Illustrator: Theodore Nadejen
Publisher: E. P. Dutton, 1930
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 10-14 and up
Rating: ***** 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Adams, Julia Davis. Mountains Are Free (published in 1930 by E. P. Dutton and Co.; republished in 1931 by Cadmus Books, an imprint of E. M. Hale and Company, Chicago, IL). It is 1308, and thirteen year old Bruno lives outside the hamlet of Burglen near Lake Lucerne in the Swiss canton of Uri. The Swiss acknowledge the Holy Roman Emperor in Austria as their hereditary lord. The previous Emperor Rudolf had allowed them a measure of self-rule, but the new Emperor Albert is a harsh, violent man who seems bent on taking Swiss freedoms away. Bruno’s grandfather, with whom he lived, has died, and the boy now lives with his neighbor William Tell, Tell’s wife, and their two sons. One day an Austrian knight, Sir Ruppretch von Lowenhohe, and his squire Sigismund force Bruno to become their page and go the court of the Duke of Valberg in Austria where Rupprecht is a vassal. There the young man is taken in by the court minstrel or jester named Kyo and meets the orphaned Lady Zelina, the Duke’s twelve year old ward who is heiress of a wealthy estate.
Before long Bruno discovers that Sir Ruppretch is a cruel master, and the boy longs for his home in Switzerland more than ever. In fact, he tries to run away once, but is caught, and is now watched constantly. Then when the castle is about to be attacked by an enemy army, he finds out that Zelina, though just a child, is pledged to Sir Ruppretch for marriage the next morning, but she despises the knight. Can Bruno find a way to escape? What happens to Zerlina? And how do the Swiss react to the Austrians’ increasing oppression? This children’s historical novel by Julia Davis Adams was a Newbery Honor recipient in 1931. As to language, the “d” and “h” words are each used once though not as curse words, and there are a few references to drinking wine, but it is an exciting and adventurous story.
One student reviewer wrote, “Anyway, it is a well-written book, but I didn’t find it all that interesting.” I agree that it is well-written, but how something can be truly “well-written” yet not “all that interesting” is puzzling to me. Of course, the reader eventually sees how the Swiss gained independence, and where the famous legends of William Tell originated. The tale of Tell and his famous bow shot is woven into the telling of this story but is downplayed in this book, which differs greatly from another Newbery Honor book, The Apple and the Arrow, that focuses on the same rebellion. Another reviewer said, “Mountains Are Free joins my list of Newberys that shouldn’t be out of print.” I agree. It would be especially enjoyable for anyone with an interest in castles and medieval life. And there is another lesson embedded in it. Freedom isn’t something that can be handed to us on a silver platter. We have to stand up for it and maybe even be willing to fight for it when the occasion demands.