HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Ravenmaster’s Secret: Escape From The Tower Of London
Author: Elvira Woodruff
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks, reprinted 2005
ISBN-13: 978-0439281331 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 0439281334 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0439281348 Paperback
ISBN-10: 0439281342 Paperback
Related website(s): http://www.scholastic.com (publisher)
Language level: 2
(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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Woodruff, Elvira. The Ravenmaster’s Secret: Escape From The Tower Of London (published in 2003 by Scholastic Press Inc., 557 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012). It is 1735, and eleven year old Forrest Harper lives with his father, mother, and sisters Mary and Beatrice inside the Tower of London. Hugh Harper is a Yeoman Warder and the Ravenmaster at the Tower. Forrest’s only friends are Tuck, his pet raven, and Ned White, an orphan boy known simply as Rat because he is the tower rat catcher. Bored by the constant chores that he has to do, Forrest longs for opportunities to show his bravery in adventures outside the walls of his home. So when vicious Scottish Rebels are captured, Forrest can’t wait to prove himself by standing guard. However, he finds out that they will be guarding a girl, the noble and daring Madeline McKay (Maddy) Stewart.
Forrest and Maddy become friends, and he begins to feel sorry for her. But then they learn that Maddy is about to be executed. Thus, Maddy’s friends develop a plan to help her escape, and Forrest is asked to join in. Can he choose between being loyal to his family or saving the life of his friend? Does the plot have any chance of being successful? And when Forrest is invited to escape along with Maddy, what will he do? Author Elvira Woodruff, who also wrote George Washington’s Socks, tends to approach historical fiction from a rather gritty, warts and all, standpoint. She does not flinch from describing the brutality of the time, including public hangings. However, The Ravenmaster’s Secret is a pretty good book.
There are some references to using tobacco and drinking ale, and the British euphemism “Lor’” is used, but the story, which has its share of suspense, excitement, and interesting characters, provides a good picture with vivid sensory images of what life was like for ordinary people living 1700s London, England. It shows respect to different viewpoints of history by including both English and Scottish perspectives on events and conveys a message of judging people on their own merits and not on the basis of stereotypes. Readers will also sense the underlying theme of courage. .A sprinkling of Gaelic words is used, and a glossary is included, as well as an author’s note, a bibliography, and a history of the Tower of London.
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