July 05, 2012

#CanLitChoices: "The Castle in the Attic" alternatives

The Castle in the Attic
by Elizabeth Winthrop
192 pp.
Ages 9-12
RL 5.9

The Castle in the Attic, winner of the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award and the California Young Readers Medal, is a favourite novel used as a novel study relating to medieval times (Middle Ages) in the junior grades, usually Grades 4-6.  Written at a reading level of 5.9, The Castle in the Attic is a book of fantasy, in which young William uses a magic token to shrink his beloved housekeeper, Mrs. Phillips, to inhabit the wooden castle she herself has gifted him.  In order to undo this selfish deed, William also shrinks down and goes on a quest to battle evil.

Topics upon which teachers might focus lessons include the following:
  • courage
  • friendship
  • occupations in the Middle Ages
  • structures in the Middle Ages
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The following youngCanLit focuses on stories of the Middle Ages and would serve beautifully as updated and alternative novels to The Castle in the Attic.  Specifically, these youngCanLit selections cover the topics listed above for The Castle in the Attic and are appropriate for the grades at which medieval times are often studied in Canadian classrooms.

A Company of Fools
by Deborah Ellis
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
191 pp.
Ages 9-14
In 1336, at the Abbey of St. Luc, Henri, a studious choir boy, and Micah, a rebellious choir student, join forces to become the Company of Fools, a group that aims to cheer the people dealing with the deaths from the Black Plague.

An extensive Teacher Guide is available for download at the Fitzhenry & Whiteside website.

Crusades: Kids @ The Crossroads
by Laura Scandiffio
Illustrated by Tina Holdcroft
Annick Press
72 pp.
Ages 9-11
Follow the blog posts of a child from 1212 recreating the adventures, lifestyle and context from the time of the Crusades.

A Teacher Guide is available for free download at Ingram Library.

Garth and the Mermaid
by Barbara Claasen Smucker
135 pp.
Ages 8-12
When young Garth is hit by a car while trying to keep a classmate from injury, he awakens from unconsciousness as a young peasant on a medieval estate in East Anglia, familiar to him from the Middle Ages he was studying in school.

Jayden's Rescue
by Vladimir Tumanov
Scholastic Canada
123 pp.
Ages 8-12
The evil sorcerer-king is holding Queen Jayden captive in his castle and only Sam and Alex can save her.  This is the plot of the book that Alex is reading but he begins to understand that Jayden is real and actually does need his help. A series of math problems help propel the story, all in aid of Jayden's Rescue.

A few years ago, I collected all the math problems and solutions in Jayden's Rescue, adding some basic details about the plot, in a guide I've posted here at scrbd.

The Mystery of the Medieval Coin
by A. D. Fast
157 pp.
Ages 8-11

To Save a King (sequel to The Mystery of the Medieval Coin)
by A.D. Fast
157 pp.
Ages 8-11

Perplexed by the strange behaviour of their history teacher, Mr. LeClair, Lucas, Marvin, and Nicole follow him to an ancient cave and time-travel back to France in the Middle Ages.  With the medieval coin from The Mystery of the Medieval Coin, the three children return to 1450 France in To Save a King, again to outwit their teacher, but this time to save King Charles VII.

On a Medieval Day: Story Voyages around the World
by Rona Arato
Illustrated by Peter Ferguson
Maple Tree Press
96 pp.
Ages 10-12
Rona Arato does a superb job of recreating the Medieval Times through a series of fictitious accounts by young people who lived in Europe, Africa, the Far East and Vinland during these times.  Additional information supports each story.
A Teachers Guide is available through Owlkids Books here.

Sir Fartsalot Hunts the Booger
by Kevin Bolger
215 pp.
Ages 9+

After prankster Prince Harry convinces an aging knight, Sir Fartsalot, the lover of all turnip dishes, that the dreaded Booger is threatening the kingdom, his father sends him to accompany the knight on a quest for the Booger.  With a story rife with puns, humour and rich language, Prince Harry learns much about gallantry, chivalry and heroism.

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