Lords and Ladies, Knights and Sultans
Big John’s Secret, by Eleanore Jewett
Crusaders and castles. Squires and knights. While previewing this book for our childrens’ upcoming school year, I was swept away with delight into the Medieval world of chivalry and feudalism. Jewett gets across the feel of the times well, from 12 year old John’s perspective. Brought up by an herb woman, he gradually learns the truth of his family. The favor or neglect of a lord made all the difference in those times, and John is noticed and taken on by a nobleman going on the Fifth Crusade with Lord Warren. Looking for his father all the way, he fights, is captured, learns of Muslim hospitality and customs, and finally joins up with St. Francis of Assisi, as he takes the Gospel directly to the Sultan himself. (The story is fictional, except for the Crusade, and St Francis with the Sultan.)
I appreciated how Jewett wove important life lessons into the story – virtues that knights and peasants alike, and all noblemen of character must learn. John needs patience throughout, knowing when to act and when to wait. Perseverance in your pursuits is paramount. The desire for vengeance must be put away just as diligently. Being a glamorous knight isn’t the only high calling in the world.
Besides these life lessons, it’s just a good story of a boy growing to be a man, finding his identity, his father, and his place of vocation in the world. I give this one a solid 4 stars.