Open Wide the World


Open Wide the World Through Books: September 2018 Edition

Our family is spending 2018 reading books aloud that transport us to times, places, cultures and events from around the world and from throughout history. Then, after reading the book, we're following inspiration wherever it takes us: an instagram search (April), a historic site visit (June), or even an inspired donation (July).

In this series, we share family-friendly books on travel, world cultures, anthropology, and history. Come see what we're reading in September. And share your suggestions, too! #books #tweens #familyfriendly #openwidetheworld

Read all about the origin of this series here or just jump right in with our September pick for "Open Wide the World through Books!"

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The Ravenmaster’s Secret

by Elvira Woodruff

This historical fiction piece takes place in the Tower of London in 1735.

The publisher says:

Eleven-year-old Forrest lives in England's most fortified castle, the Tower of London, where his father tends the Tower ravens and guards inmates. 

Forrest's only friends are his pet raven, his father's prisoners (who all end up dead), and Ned, the young rat catcher. 

Soon Forrest's father gets a new prisoner: Maddie, the daughter of a Scottish spy. Immediately Forrest and Maddie become friends, but in the Tower of London, their friendship could cost them their lives.

When she is slated for execution, Forrest must make a painful choice: commit treason to help her escape, or obey the law and let his innocent friend be hung?

This is an adventure story about friendship and war, love and hate, weakness and courage.

We say:

Julie (mom): I was the least excited of the three of us to read this book when we chose it, as I’m not terribly interested in English history. But a few pages in and I was hooked! The story had lots of historical learning enmeshed in an intriguing plot, so I ended up really looking forward to our daily reading times.

Homer (dad): I like stories from this era -anything with dungeons! There was a good storyline, good suspense and adventure, and a couple of different plots going on.

Reading this book was something to look forward to; like a nail biter to see what’s going to happen next, usually some kind of a big reveal.

Mag (10 y/o): I liked that the book was based in a place I’ve visited, so I can connect to it.

It was fun to learn about the Tower of London; for example, the one step in the stairway of a tower that was a different size than the rest so it would trip people if they were trying to escape quickly.

I also liked that there was friendship in the story, and death, too. It gave depth and meaning to the story.

Our family’s rating (on a scale of 1-10): 9+

One of the three of us gave the book a rating of 9; the other two a 10.

This was a book that all three of us looked forward to reading each day. Whenever schedule allowed, we would end up reading more pages than we had intended, simply because we were so engrossed in the plot. When we finished the book, we had that end-of-a-book sad feeling, where we felt like we would miss our daily time with the characters.

Plus, we learned a lot about life in 18th Century England; always a win when you accidentally learn things while doing something you enjoy!

Extension Activity

This month, we chose to “live” the book by baking a treat that was mentioned in the story: ginger biscuits. Several acts of kindness were centered around this biscuit, which lead us to its choosing.

We searched for the most historically accurate recipe we could find, within the constraints of modern ingredients, and chose the Museum of London’s recipe, from just about 100 years before the setting of this book. (We hope we are not wrong in presuming that such a recipe would have changed little over that 100-year period.)

Has your family read any eerie, but excellent books?

Share your recommendations in the comments!