HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Tod of the Fens
Author: Elinor Whitney Field
Illustrator: Warwick Goble
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, republished 2017
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 8-12
Rating: ***** 5 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Whitney Field, Elinor. Tod of the Fens (published in 1928 by The Macmillan Company, New York City, NY; republished 2017 in by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform). Do you know what a “fen” is? This story takes place in the beginning of the fifteenth century, when in England King Richard II has been deposed by Henry Bolingbroke, who becomes King Henry IV. Near the town of Boston in Lincolnshire north of London, a young man named Tod lives a Robin Hood like existence with a band of men, known only by aliases to each other, outside town in the fens or swamps of the River Lindis, not far from Sherwood Forest. Their amusement is telling stories of the mischief they have created and one-upping the others. Tod meets a new man named Dismas who engages in the best prank of all. However, Dismas’ prank sets off a series of events that cause a great deal of distress to Boston’s residents, including the mayor, Sir Frederick Tilney, and his fourteen year old daughter, Johanna.
Sir Frederick has.recently begun a new venture to export wool with Sir Richard Branche and his young son Gilbert who is sweet on Johanna. Dismas has managed to steal all the keys to the town’s lockbox, then he just disappears. Meanwhile, two dishonest townsmen, Marfleet and Skilton who have been working with a shepherd named Redfern to smuggle wool, plan to steal the lockbox and leave an identical but empty one in its place. Also, a group of “Easterlings,” led by a pirate named Ranolf who is in on the wool smuggling, kidnaps Johanna. What will happen to the poor lass? Is there anything that Tod can do to help? And just who is this Dismas, and where has he gone?
This children’s historical fiction novel by Elinor Whitney, illustrated by Warwick Goble, was a Newbery Honor recipient in 1929. There are some instances of drinking ale and a few references to medieval Roman Catholic religious practices. Otherwise, Tod of the Fens is a light-hearted adventure that is a lot of fun. The pranks are quite humorous. Unfortunately, the book is pretty rare and therefore a bit difficult to find. A public domain online edition is available at A Celebration of Women Writers. CreateSpace has recently republished a print version. I don’t like–in fact, I hate–reading books on my computer, but I have been so disappointed and disgusted with CreateSpace reprints that I downloaded the online version.