I have said it before, and I will say it again: the Sir Kaye the Boy Knight series makes the librarian in me want to gather a group of kids, put these books in their hands, and watch the magic happen. As is the case with the first three books in the series, book four, The Eldridge Conspiracy, immediately draws-in the reader with action, danger, and suspense, and it never lets up. Add to the mix bad guys readers will love to hate and the sprinkling of illustrations by the talented Dave Allred, and it’s a perfect package for young and/or reluctant readers.
Throughout the books, author Don Winn reinforces a set of consistent themes, but he layers them and spins different angles to illustrate their application. At the heart of it all is a set of values and lessons about friendship, loyalty, perseverance, and honesty (and so much more) that will stick with readers, young and old. What’s refreshing is that the values aren’t demonstrated in a cookie-cutter way, and the characters aren’t always inclined to stay true to their core values. They sometimes struggle with doing or saying the right thing, and Winn shows that it’s okay to struggle – and he also carefully shows the consequences of a careless word spoken or a selfish action taken.
The characters are never stale or predictable, and they act realistically. For example, where in book one, The Knighting of Sir Kaye, readers see Kaye modeling the importance of not reacting to teasing, by book four, The Eldridge Conspiracy, we see him really struggling when he can’t shake the nickname, Sir Donkey, and it begins to affect him and the decisions he makes. Readers will see Kaye go off course a bit when his pride gets in the way and he’s sidetracked by unimportant distractions. Fortunately, Kaye grows and reflects – and even self-diagnoses – to recognize and remedy his shortcomings. It was heartbreaking to see the pressure Kaye put upon himself to not only save his father, but to save his father like a hero (a knight) would save him. When Kaye reveals that his fear is that his father will die being disappointed in Kaye, my heart nearly broke.
Cue Reggie – the ultimate cheerleader and best friend. Reggie, who has heartbreaking struggles of his own due to his dyslexia and upbringing, shows growth and increasing self-awareness and amazing insight, especially as he observes Kaye and his quest to be just like his father. Reggie saves the day on many levels in The Eldridge Conspiracy, but you’ll get no spoilers here. Suffice it to say that Reggie is more of a hero than any knight in the stories. I could talk for hours about the virtues of Reggie and the value of having a character like him play a major role in the book. (Go ahead, ask me some time.)
As with all the Sir Kaye books, in The Eldridge Conspiracy, Don Winn doesn’t disappoint. The book is cleanly edited, and the writing is full of figurative language and words that put readers perfectly in the moment (like mud sliding off a hill and making a “sloppy whumping noise.”) Winn has a wonderfully engaging story line full of adventure and richly described settings and characters. The ending was excellent, and the brilliance of Reggie’s idea to metaphorically put one of Kaye’s problems to rest was especially satisfying.
The Sir Kaye series is like vitamin fortified cereal. Kids will devour the stories while getting a sneaky but healthy dose of the good stuff that fuels them. In a world where it’s sometimes hard to find positive role models, the Sir Kaye series is an excellent and highly recommended reading choice.
A FEW WORDS ABOUT THE STUDY GUIDE:
The newly published Study Guide for the Sir Kaye the Boy Knight Series is absolutely icing on the cake for this series. Not only does it include book-by-book lesson plans, there are games, activities, and vocabulary spotlights that support and explore the main themes of the stories. Also included is a section of supplemental historical material about the middle ages. Readers are again treated to the wonderful illustrations by Dave Allred as everything from jousting to dental care is explored. (These pages reminded me of the library’s always checked-out, fascinating DK (Dorling Kindersley) Eyewitness books.) The study guide is a fabulous tool for educators to be able to teach a fascinating unit on medieval times. Bonus: it has a beautiful cover!
Thank you to Lone Star Book Blog Tours and the author for providing me a print copy in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. This full review plus other features on Hall Ways Blog kristinehallways.blogspot.com