A Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (originally written 1949) is a true classic about a young boy meant to be a knight but recently disabled in an unfortunately illness. It was a Newbery winner from the earlier years of the award. The medieval setting was perfectly created, and I loved the inherent message of goodness in the book, but I suspect that despite it’s slim size, it is a tricky book to get young children interested in during this day and age.In the story, Robin, a young boy destined to become a knight, is recovering from a sudden illness in his home during the Middle Ages. Unfortunately, his illness leaves him temporarily paralyzed and he can no longer walk without assistance. How can he become a knight with such a disability? Robin is left alone before the book begins because his mother is needed by the queen and his father (also a knight) is away on a quest. Due to the plague hitting many in the city, Robin is lucky to have been discovered and taken to a monastery, where he is cared for.
The title of the book comes from something a monk tells young Robin: if you feel trapped and do not know where to go, follow the wall until you get to a door, for there is always a door in a wall. This analogy comparing seeking opportunities with the medieval courtyard recurs throughout the book, most especially when Robin comes to the rescue in an exciting moment.
I loved how Robin, a spoiled rich boy, learns to adjust to his life situation. I loved the positive message that all gave him, that no matter who we are, we can all find a way to fulfill our destiny. Most especially, I really enjoyed the glimpse into medieval life.
The language that the author used and the details included are convincingly accurate. Since I am not familiar with life as a nobleman or knight during the Middle Ages, I cannot say without a doubt that the book is accurate. However, because the text reads as it does, I am convinced the author was familiar with the time period and had done extensive research before writing her book. Christianity is a huge and significant part of the book’s language and the character’s life plan. This does not make it a Christian book but rather a detailed and realistic book for the era in which it takes place.
Despite all the thing I like about it and it’s slimness (less than 200 pages), The Door in the Wall is not a book that is for everyone. I suspect that, due to the slow beginning and subtle personality growth of the main character, many young children these days would find it dull. It is not an easy text to read, but it is so rewarding. I hope that as my son grows, he’ll come to a point where he too can appreciate it as I have.