Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess

Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess

Richard Platt
Illustrator:   Chris Riddell 
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 9 and up
Candlewick, 2003   ISBN: 978-0763621643

   Tobias is leaving his home for a while to serve as a page in the castle of his uncle John Burgess, Baron of Stranborough. Though Toby is sad to be leaving his family, he is also excited to see what life is like in the home of such a powerful man. He knows that he will have to work hard, and in due time he will, he hopes, be made a squire. A squire is the servant and apprentice of a knight, the goal being that the squire will hopefully earn a knighthood of his own one day.

  The day when he will become a squire seems a long way off, for as a page Toby must do all sorts of menial tasks like serving at table, holding his aunt’s train up off the floor, going to lessons with the chaplain, and learning how to use a bow and arrow. The lessons are dreadfully dull and serving at table is not that interesting either.

   There are compensations though, for Toby does get to go on a hunt, he gets to watch a tournament, and he is able to see the visitors who come to the castle. He even meets a poacher one day when he is out walking.

   The author of this exceptional book not only tells an interesting story about a young boy, but he also gives the reader a picture of what it must have been like to be a page in a big English castle. We learn all about the customs and traditions of the times and what it was like to live in a castle. We are also able to see how hard life was for the peasants who had small rough homes and who had to work hard for their lord in return for the protection he provided. Toby and the reader see how harsh life was for the poor in comparison to the life enjoyed by Toby and his family.

   In the back of the book the author supplies his readers with more information about “Toby’s World.” This section provides details about weapons, battles, castles, and other aspects of medieval life. There is also a glossary and index.

   Chris Riddell’s wonderful full color caricature style artwork superbly shows us Toby’s world, complete with splendid full page pictures of, among other things, the castle and a tournament