cover image Favorite Medieval Tales

Favorite Medieval Tales

Mary Pope Osborne. Scholastic, $19.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-590-60042-2

With this gorgeously produced volume Osborne and Howell meet and in some ways even exceed the standards they established in Favorite Norse Myths and Mermaid Tales from Around the World. The nine entries range from adaptations of widely known stories (""The Sword in the Stone""; ""Robin Hood and His Merry Men"") to more eclectic choices (Marie de France's ""The Werewolf""; ""The Chanticleer and the Fox,"" adapted from The Canterbury Tales); they also span about a thousand years of Western European literary history. Throughout, Osborne blends suspenseful storytelling with almost imperceptible explanations of the original context. For example, the Green Knight holds out his own head to Gawain, the knight who severed it, and reminds Gawain that he has promised, on his honor, to receive a blow of the ax in return. Osborne subtly relays the historical weight of this exchange: ""Even the bravest warrior shuddered. Preserving a knight's honor was more important than preserving his own life."" Howell, meanwhile, imaginatively bends medieval traditions to his own uses. As he explains in a detailed endnote, he models his paintings on such works as the Unicorn Tapestries and specific illuminated manuscripts. Adding to the book's educational value, Osborne prefaces each entry with an excerpt in the original language (along with a translation) and conveys further information in unusually meaty appendices. This stylish collection will not only entertain readers but will also nurture a lively interest in history, literature and language, and the way these forces of culture intersect. Ages 8-12. (May)