The Badger Knight is the story of a young boy, Adrian, in medieval times (1346) who suffers from albinism and asthma, making him a sickly boy in the midst of war times. Adrian wants nothing more than to go into battle along side his friend Hugh, who has run off in search of his own father and to fight in glorious battle against the Scots, who have invaded northern England.
Several elements make this an excellent choice for upper elementary grade level fiction. Adrian is a boy who does not fit in with others and is often misunderstood. His health and albinism set him apart from others. He is underestimated as well; though he is magnificent with a bow and arrow, far surpassing the skills of adults around him, people often assume that he cannot shoot well, much to his frustration. His character is multi-dimensional, intriguing, and likable for the reader, creating an emotional investment at the start of the book. Once Adrian, the Badger Knight, takes off on his own to find Hugh and help battle the Scots, the adventure begins. And while Adrian undertakes a physically strenuous and unpredictable journey (involving monks, knights, and young boys who live on the streets), he also goes through an emotional journey and grapples with issues in war and life that surprise and astound him as he makes decisions and forges relationships that once seemed impossible.
Adrian’s journey of emotional growth is what sets this book apart from others. While it could be simply an adventurous medieval tale of battles, knights, and villains, Adrian’s character keeps the reader intrigued and pushes the question, what would you do? Prior to battle, Adrian believed that all Scots were pagans who deserved to die at the hands of the English. But things change when Adrian witnesses a monk, who should be a man of God, stealing from others and lying. Then Adrian finds himself in battle, where not everything is as he expects. Adrian meets a man from Scotland, an encounter which has a profound effect on Adrian and causes him to reconsider what he believed about being honorable and noble in times of war.
At the heart of this book is the morality Adrian ponders and the notion of honor – what does Adrian learn in this journey? What does it mean to be honorable? Who are the honorable people in Adrian’s life? What lessons does Adrian learn from the street gang, Sir Geoffrey, the monks, Donald and Hugh? What does he learn about girls in battle? Why does Adrian risk his life for someone he thought was the enemy? Why does “Badger” work well for Adrian’s nickname? What does noble mean for Adrian? Friendship?
(Note: Adrian also pens a glossary of medieval words and phrases for the young reader, found at the end of the book, Godspeed Friends!)
Important Quotations for Discussion
- “I wonder how the boy felt at that last moment before he was shot. I think about how Hugh gives a blessing to the creatures he kills, thanking them for providing him sustenance, which I always thought strange. I’ve never before felt the need to say a prayer like that, but I do now.” (page 189)
- “It’s not the reunion I pictured. Maybe Hugh and I have both seen too much. The horrible death of Sir Geoffrey is enough to make me never want to see a Scottish soldier again, never mind heal him. I know Hugh is a healer at heart. He has knowledge and patience like Nigel. He’s noble like Henry and Sir Geoffrey. He’s my best friend. But right now, I can’t even stand to look at him.” (page 203)
- “‘Bowyer, like my father,’ I say, out of habit. But Father won’t allow it and even being an archer has lost its appeal. I always thought they were such noble callings. Now, as I gut the squirrels and remember Sir Geoffrey’s death, I wonder what, exactly, noble means.” (page 282)
- “‘What about you, laddie?’ ‘I’m fine,’ I say. We’re both lying, but sometimes friends do that for each other to keep their spirits up.” (page 312)
- “I think of what I always believed to be truths — Scots are pagans, thieves are bad, knights are noble, girls are weak, war is glorious — and how all these “truths” aren’t real at all. They’re things I was taught or everyone believes, just as all people who look like are supposedly angels or, more often, devils. I didn’t believe Nigel when he said that scribing was power, that seeking the truth and sharing it is mightier than being a soldier.” (page 314)
- “I’m the Badger, tough and scrappy. I’m the Spider, small but determined. Mostly, I’m someone useful from the village of Ashcroft. My name is Adrian Black, and I am a man.” (page 325)
Writing Ideas & Activities
- Make a map. Trace Adrian’s journey, using symbols to represent different events in the story. Explain the symbols and important events in a reflection to accompany your map.
- Create a journal of Adrian’s adventure. Select several important moments in the story to write about in a journal from Adrian’s point of view.
- Write a letter to Donald. Think about what Adrian might want to tell Donald after the novel ends. Imagine what Adrian may be doing and what Donald’s life was like after he returned. What would Adrian share with Donald?
- Write a new chapter. Spend some time thinking about how Adrian will tell his story to his father. What will he tell his family, especially his father who was anxiously search for Adrian? What important moments will Adrian share? What will he tell his father about the monks and Sir Geoffrey? What about the battles he witnessed and Hugh’s story? What will he tell his father about Donald?