The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry by D. Smith
Smith, Danna. The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry. Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. Candlewick Press, 2017.
The Hawk of the Castle is a picture book that tells a story centered on the practice of medieval falconry, and it is told from the perspective of a young girl whose father is the falconer of a castle. Upon picking up the book, the reader will immediately be drawn into Bagram Ibatoulline’s beautiful acrylic gouache illustrations, which not only vividly portray the content of the story, but also complement the work by depicting technical aspects of falconry that a reader might not easily imagine without visual aids. The great attention to detail and realistic style of the illustrations lends itself to the historical setting of Danna Smith’s story—a vivid world that was once as real and familiar to its medieval inhabitants as our world is to us. The author’s note communicates the dedication of Smith to her story as it not only describes her own expertise as a falconer who was trained, like the girl in the story, by her father, but also gives insight into the history and sources she consulted to provide further understanding of the art of falconry as it was in the past and as it is now.
The book is designed with two levels of reading in mind: the primary text, written in short rhyming verses, is one that a child might easily read on their own or with assistance. The secondary text, found in textboxes on each page, provides a more challenging and technical text which could be used at an adult’s discretion in order to provide a child with a more nuanced understanding of the aspects of falconry being described. This design is effective as it illuminates, in varying levels of complexity, a subject that is unlikely to be familiar to most readers. In addition to these two levels of reading, Smith also provides a list of resources for further information, allowing her book to become a gateway to even more complex and detailed understandings of falconry and the medieval period. In this way, The Hawk of the Castle, also becomes a means for readers to learn about an aspect of medieval life and society outside of more popular stories about princesses and knights in shining armour. Together Smith and Ibatoulline have created a beautiful book that allows readers to encounter an ancient pastime through a story about medieval falconry, and for that reason it would be a good addition to both school and public libraries.
Highly Recommended: 4 stars out of 4
Reviewer: Arwen Thysse
Arwen Thysse is a graduate of the University of Alberta Bachelor of Arts program and graduate of the University of Toronto’s Master of Medieval Studies program. She is also an avid musician, and enjoys children’s books.
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