Better than Christmas, birthdays, and the 4th of July combined is that day when the new Sonlight school books arrive. The semester has yet to begin. Summer still remains and math has not managed to make our lives miserable yet. The books still smell new. New read alouds, new readers, and new history books. An entire semester of good fiction ahead. Ahhhh, it’s a glorious feeling for a bookworm.
It was not long after one of these particularly magical days that I picked up The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Marie Pope for the first time. It was just too tempting. The synopsis sounded so good and the cold basement made for an excellent place to avoid the sun (my favorite pastime in the summer). ‘Twas love at first read. It’s an exciting romp, a creative and imaginative story, and easily stands as one of my favorite books. It was our read aloud a few weeks later and a re-read over and over for me from that day on.
Side note, The Sherwood Ring, alas if you are like me and immediately associate the two, has nothing to do with Sherwood Forrest or Robin Hood, but it has just about everything else. Colonial spies, intrigue, mystery, love!
Newly orphaned Peggy Graham has spent her entire life ‘staying out of the way’. When her Father’s dies, she is sent to live with her Uncle at the family estate of RestandBeThankful. Almost immediately she is caught off-guard by the strange place: a mysterious young woman, the strange behavior of her uncle, and the handsome young historian who befriends her. Her adventure is only just beginning, though. RestandBeThankful is haunted. Not by your typical ghost-in-chains, but by revolutionary era family members! Through their narratives, Peggy finds herself plunged into a hundred year old mystery and romance, involving the indomitable Richard, the spunky Eleanor, the spirited Barbara, and the clever British spy, Peaceable Sherwood. As each character takes a turn relating their story, the plot builds and Peggy begins to realize that RestandBeThankful has one last mystery to reveal…
The Sherwood Ring is a great story. The historical characters are well-developed and the interchanging viewpoints flow well together. There is build and growth. While some have criticized the “modern” parts of the story, I think the Revolutionary parts make up for anything. Richard and Eleanor and Barbara and Peaceable are like old friends. Peggy’s lonesomeness and self-reliance is well formed and the shrewd laziness of Peaceable Sherwood is reminiscent of all the best heroes (Sir Percy Blakeney….Mycroft Holmes*….) It’s so much fun.
It’s a cozy, comfy sort of book full of adventure and lessons about life but nothing too tedious. It makes for a good read aloud and is the sort of book guys and girls can enjoy. It is full of clever codes and situations as spies battle and wits are matched. There are so many funny little scenes tucked in the pages and enjoyable moments of dialogue or action. I love the pictures. As I sit here, I’ve stretched my mind back to think of a particular moment to share or a dialogue to post or a good scene of description, but like a good inside joke none of it makes much sense out of context. It just is. And that pretty much sums up The Sherwood Ring for me. It it is not quite comfort food, but it is close. It’s a healthy dose of fun and takes place during the Revolutionary War, one of my favorite settings. And it is. It’s a wonderful read. It’s a must read, and a good book to nourish children on. They will learn “pride goeth before a fall” but it will be accompanied by a sense of justice and humor. It teaches young ladies to stand tall and young men to get back up again when they fall down. In the end, the girl can be won, the battle fought, and the mystery solved, it just takes effort.
So do yourself a favor and if you haven’t read The Sherwood Ring yet, go do so. And if you have, re-read it. It’s a worthy thing to fill yourself up with.
*Anna is laughing at me, so possibly Mycroft homes isn’t a ‘best hero.’ But still, he’s pretty awesome, so we’re gonna roll with it.