This illustration is courtesy of Stella and Rose’s Books, an online bookshop for rare and used books. I am citing them because I want to be sure that I am within the “fair use” exception for reproducing their image (to the right). If I had a scanner, I’d scanner in the morning, I’d scanner in the evening – all over this land! I wouldn’t have to worry about copyright. As it is, all I have to worry about is getting caught using puns by certain people who I hope are not reading this post.
I bought this book at the same book sale as the book in my last review (Mouse Tales, by Arnold Lobel), but for a different reason. I bought it as an example of lies and damned lies. “An Adventure from History”, my eye!
Robert the Bruce was the leader of the Scots rebels against the English crown and the King of Scotland for a time. He was also, for those of you who watched Braveheart, the cowardly princely king-guy whose father betrays William Wallace just before the end of the movie, and then who in the last scene is gathering the Scots to fight for him, but in the name of William Wallace.
A certain person who shall remain unnamed (but not for long) was named after Robert the Bruce (told you so), and was raised believing that Robert the Bruce was a hero to Scots and to all mankind, the leader of a great people, etc. etc. etc. Maybe. But more probably, he was a power-hungry mongerer (what a good word, even if it’s invented) who betrayed others when it suited him, changed sides when it helped his cause (i.e. making himself King of Scotland) and was generally ruthless. That’s not to say he wasn’t brave. He must have been. I can’t even get through a chilly April morning in an unheated office without turning on a space heater. Robert the Bruce, according to this book, wandered around the hillocks of Scotland for much, much, longer periods of time leading raids and trying to gain a following and a kingdom.
But – you ask – is the book any good? I have to say that I find it hilarious. I’m doing the blog a slight disservice here by reviewing it as adult entertainment, but entertaining it is.
Some choice quotes:
Everyone knows the story of Bruce and the spider. When a man becomes a national hero all sorts of stories are told about him, some true, some not so true. What is true is that for Bruce everything looked hopeless.
FanTAStic! I love obscure stories that start with “Everyone knows….” They do? How do they know? Did THEY all grow up reading books written by (ahem) L. du Garde Peach? And I love how Ladybird Books pretty much tells us that some stories about national heroes are LIES. They couch it, but I’m astute. And then, on the very same page is the story of Bruce and the spider (now I am a part of “everyone”), which begins as follows:
Bruce must have spent long hours wondering and planning what to do. At such a time, when people are thinking deeply, their eyes often seem to be staring at nothing. Then some movement catches their attention.
YeAH! Thanks for the lesson, Ladybird Books!
What can I say? This book is awesome. I am SO glad that I bought it, and even gladder that read past the cover (I nearly didn’t. And then I thought – I have to read it. It’s an Adventure from History!). It is definitely a must read. But I think it may go over the heads of people under the age of irony. (Or not. I can’t remember. I’m tired of discussing what is “ironic”. But now that I’ve thought about it, a book intended to teach history that ends up sounding like a satire is probably ironic).
Reading Ages: 6 and up. I think kids should have this read to them. That way, when they reread it as adults, they can howl with both nostalgia and irony.
Second Most Boring Line in the Book: “Scotland was to be “separate in all things from the kingdom of England, whole, free, and undisturbed.” It was to remain so for 275 years, until a Scottish King became King also of England.” Did they really have to cite the peace treaty? That’s not an adventure!
Most Boring Line: “The Scottish parliament was meeting, passing laws to regulate the affairs of the kingdom and its trade beyond the seas.” Yaaaawn.
Best Feature: The illustrations inside the cover of things from Olde Scottishe Lyfe. Ex. Showman and his bear, a Tinker (getting bit on the calf by a dog), and a man playing bagpipes.
Rating: Well, if I stick strictly to the rating system, it is a B+ because it is not a “must have”. But your life will be less fun if you never read it.