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The Little Duke Review by Tammy Walker

Charlotte M. Yonge
Yesterday's Classics
(919) 357-8824
PO Box 3418
Chapel Hill, NC 27515

Upon the murder of his father, William of the long Sword, Duke of Normandy, eight year old Richard is called into leadership. Just prior to his father's death, Richard is given a lesson on "loving your enemies" when his father entreats him to never seek revenge or harm on another in his place of office, but rather to extend his "full hand of forgiveness" to his enemies. He requires a promise from his son that he will be such a leader. The Little Duke is too quickly called to make good on this promise when his father is murdered shortly thereafter. His natural instinct and first reaction is the opposite of his father's wishes as he emphatically vows to avenge his father's death. The remainder of the tale exposes the maturation of this young Duke as he faces various trials. Captured by the French king and abused and degraded by the queen and her son, Duke Richard is humbled and caused to see the wretchedness of this arrogant, degenerate behavior, and makes a note to change areas in his own character which resemble the pompous prince's. Covering, primarily, a 2-3 year time period, the tale presents a portrait of a selfish and prideful young boy becoming a compassionate, courageous, and merciful leader. By the end, Richard the Fearless has not only adopted his father's values but has become a powerful leader as well.

I found it difficult to put down this piece of historical fiction, wanting to know what was going to happen next. The author effectively dramatized this young leader's life, creating elements of suspense, evoking a sense of anger and fear at times, very much drawing me into the story. I found this to be a very interesting read. Her higher writing style and the simple artistry of her sentence structure also made this an enjoyable tale. The target age range for this text is nine and up, though it could effectively be read aloud to younger children if explanation were given about the various people groups pertinent to the story--the Franks, Normans, Danes, etc., as well as some historical context about the feuding and territorial boundaries at this time (943-996).

Young readers will be given a powerful and meaningful picture of the character development and spiritual growth of another "little person," and would hopefully be challenged by this illustration. Teachers could easily fit this text into their history cycle, or outside of history for the pure enjoyment of the tale, or as an instruction in righteousness. The Little Duke really was a powerful story I will eagerly share with my children when they are ready.

Product Review by Tammy Walker, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March, 2009