Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray

Gray, Elizabeth Janet. 1942. Adam of the Road.

Review by Becky Laney, frequent contributor.

After a May as gray and cold as December, June came in, that year of 1294, sunny and warm and full of birds and blossoms and all the other happy things the songs praise May for.

Adam of the Road is one of those titles that I most likely never would have read without some encouragement and pressure. I avoided it as a child. Why? Mainly the cover I think. It didn't look like my kind of book. It still doesn't look like my kind of book. A boy in a skirt with a dog? However, appearances can be deceiving.

I am very glad that I read this one. Set in the thirteenth century, it is the story of a young boy, Adam. Adam is the son of a somewhat mostly successful and popular minstrel named Roger. (It's not like Roger is the most famous minstrel of all time with legions and legions of fans clamoring for him. But he's good at what he does and he always finds work.) When the book opens, Adam is at a monastery--an abbey. He's staying with the monks and attending their school until his father returns. His best friend is a dog named Nick, a red spaniel. But his other best friend is a boy named Perkin.

When his father returns, all seems well. In fact, they've never been better. They're reunited. Father. Son. Dog. The father has been hired by a well-to-do man on a semi-permanent basis. He's found a benefactor or sponsor you might say. I'm not really too familiar with the terms and the arrangements of medieval minstrels. And his father has been rewarded with a horse. They are to live for a while with this man on his estate. Adam will be around kids--both girls and boys--his own age. And there are some truly happy times spent there.

However, the good times don't last forever. After the big family wedding, father and son are once again on their own until the next big celebration or holiday or whatever. What's worse? After the wedding, Roger gambled and lost not only his money but his new horse. What's even worse than that? The man who won him doesn't know how to treat a horse? What's even more wore than that? The man has been wanting Nick. He's been watching Nick closely. He's made several offers. He won't be satisfied until the dog is his. And being a true villain, the deed is soon done.

Adam is angry and determined. Determined to follow this man--a fellow minstrel--as long as it takes in order to find his dog and get him back, this father and son team head off on his trail. But tracking this dog down isn't easy. The road is full of danger in more ways than one. It's not long after that Nick isn't the only one that is "lost." Adam and Roger become separated during the chase and have a monstrously difficult time getting reunited.

I was hesitant to say that much. However, the jacket flap clearly states that Adam is on the road alone searching for his father and for his dog.

What the description fails to hint at is that the book is actually interesting. The cover and description don't really do the book much justice. I think sometimes it's easy to assume that kids won't be interested in reading historical fiction. And to a certain degree, I agree. I think it is sometimes harder to sell historical fiction than fantasy for example. But I think for certain readers, Adam of the Road can still entertain even after all these years.

Adam of the Road won the Newbery in 1943.

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