When I first started reading Otto of the Silver Hand, written and illustrated by Howard Pyle, I never thought I would include it as one of my favorites. But now that I have finished it, I realized it more than makes the cut.
Otto of the Silver Hand is set in Medieval Europe, a time of castles and villages, family loyalty and feuds, petty wars and peaceful monks. Instead of writing in modern English, Pyle chooses to write in the formal English of the King Jame’s Bible. While it starts off awkward, it has a beauty and rhythm all its own, with the added bonus of adding authenticity to the story.
If you wonder where Otto is during the first couple of chapters, hang in there. You’ll meet him soon. The first couple of chapters do provide important information. The story is relatively short and full of action – including a daring rescue, and a fight to the death as a father defends his son.
Pyle does not hide the violence of the time, and contrasts it with the peace-loving monks with whom Otto grows up. Otto survives terrible ordeals, but instead of making him bitter, his ordeals harden his character and his personal stance against violence. He also decides to stay true to the values the monks instilled in him, forgiving his enemies and keeping a long-standing promise.
This book has everything – beautiful language, beautiful pen-and-ink illustrations, action and adventure, good role models, even a little romance for the girls. But please don’t miss the opportunity to read this book aloud – you’ll enjoy it so much more if you do.
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