From School Library Journal
Grade 3–5—In the vein of Laura Amy Schlitz's Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! (Candlewick, 2007), Ashman offers voices of several characters within the castle of a bumbling earl as he decrees that he will hold a tournament and a banquet. What this actually means is that his staff will plan the events and suffer the consequences as they clean up after the visiting nobles. The story is straightforward; what is interesting here are the multiple perspectives in rhyming poems that drive the narrative and the humorous artwork filled with period details. Schindler fills the pages with color, from the illustrations themselves to the illuminated borders and drop-cap letters that echo medieval texts. Ashman's poetry holds together well, only occasionally dropping the meter. Endnotes offer historical facts about the roles of each of the characters, from the steward to the "gong farmer," whose job was to clean the privy. In fact, the gong farmer is the most captivating character in the book: his poem and illustration are laid out length-wise to show the drop from the privy to where the mess eventually ends up. While for a younger audience and not as useful in a classroom context as Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, this book presents more details to expand on the period, and browsers will be enchanted by the illustrations.—Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT
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What’s bored royalty to do? If you’re the Earl of Daftwood, you throw a party complete with a grand feast and jousting. And if you’re the Earl of Daftwood’s staff, you groan and fret because nothing is more troublesome than a party. Using various rhyming schemes, Ashman begins with the Earl and then shifts the point of view to his various underlings as each describes their preparations, and in doing so give a sense of what it was like to live in a thirteenth-century English castle. The rhymes have an appropriate leisurely pace energized by clever couplets such as this sentiment from the Cleaning Servant: “Scatter the rats. Now it’s perfectly clean— / Or at least good enough; we’re not serving the Queen!” The intricate artwork portrays the revelers as a bit grotesque and uses ornate framing and lettering to surround such humorous cutaways as the bedrooms of various social classes and the long drop-tunnel leading to the Gong Farmer (the guy who scoops the poop). Quirky, sarcastic, and rather educational, too. Grades 1-3. --Daniel Kraus
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