Jane Louise Curry: Robin Hood and his Merry Men / Robin Hood in the Greenwood

Rebecca Swain wrote this review that I believe most likely ran on Roots and Branches.

Take no scorn to wear the horn
It was the crest when you were born
Your father’s father wore it
And your father wore it to

Robin Hood and Little John
Have both gone to the fair o
and we will to the merry green wood
To hunt the buck and hare

“Hal-N-Tow” (traditional)

These hardcover retellings of the traditional Robin Hood legend are geared for children 9-12. While I feel that children over the age of ten might find these books too young, I do think they are fine books for younger children. Both books are liberally illustrated in black and white. The illustrator of Robin Hood and his Merry Men is John Lytle. Julie Downing illustrates the second book.

Robin Hood and His Merry Men introduces Robin and some of his fellow foresters. The first chapter describes how Robin kills one of the king’s deer and wounds a man, and is forced to flee into Sherwood Forest, where he becomes an outlaw. Chapter Two tells of his meeting with Little John on the log bridge in the middle of the brook.

In subsequent chapters we learn how the Sheriff of Nottingham becomes an enemy of the merry men, and what the rules of conduct are in Sherwood Forest — who gets robbed and who doesn’t. The last three chapters concern Sir Richard of Lee. Robin helps him regain his forfeited lands, and Sir Richard repays the debt.

In Robin Hood in the Greenwood Robin meets Friar Tuck and renews his acquaintance with his beloved Maid Marian. Sir Richard participates in some more adventures, and at the end of the book Robin meets the king, goes to London to live for a time, then returns to Sherwood Forest, unable to bear his life in London.

Curry’s prose is clear and simple. She uses appropriate words for the clothes and weapons of the time, and provides a short glossary at the back of each book defining the unfamiliar words. She tells the stories with lively humor. My favorite passage is from “Robin Hood and the Archer Friar,” the first chapter of the Greenwood book. Curry writes: “‘Whoo on,’ said Robin. ‘I like nothing better than to hear a friar whoo.’”

I believe these books will bring great enjoyment to children and will serve as an excellent grounding in the Robin Hood legend. From here young readers can go on to the multitude of other books written on this subject. Sherwood Forest is a big, beautiful, merry place. It’s never too soon to enter it.

(Margaret McElderry, 1994)
(Margaret McElderry, 1995)

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