For some time now I have been reviewing books for the Historical Novel Society (an organization filled with probably the MOST enthusiastic history lovers I have ever seen). This children’s graphic novel is my favorite so far.
A Castle in England by Jamie Rhodes. No Brow, 2017. ISBN 9781910620199; $19.99; Hardback.
For several months in early 2016, researcher and author Jamie Rhodes lived in Scotney Castle in Kent, South-East England. There he walked the grounds, pondered the ruins, and studied the archives for stories illuminating the castle’s centuries-long past. The result is a young adult graphic novel that includes five tales that span the ages from the late 14th century through the early 20th century. Each part is illustrated as a comic by a different graphic artist in their own unique style. Family trees, historical context information, and facts pertaining to Scotney Castle during the associated period accompany each story in order to provide needed information to help the reader more fully understand what he or she has read.
The stories include “The Labourer” (medieval), “The Priest” (Elizabethan), “The Smuggler” (Georgian), “The Widow” (Victorian), and “The Hunter” (Edwardian). Each of them is inspired by actual events that took place in, near, and around the castle.
The tales are engaging and interesting, making each a quick, easy read. Trying to figure out what, exactly, the tale ultimately means is not as easy or quick, though. Because of this, it is necessary for the reader to carefully examine the family tree and historical context information and think about how the tale was presented, and perhaps even read it over again with these details in mind. For that reason, the graphic novel becomes a potent educational tool for young people and adults alike, and not a piece of spoon-fed diversion. Highly recommended.