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March 26, 2015
The Book of Tormod: A Templar’s Apprentice by Kat Black (parents | teachers) is intended for the middle-school audience, most likely, though I feel it can be used in the upper-elementary classroom with effective scaffolded discussion. This book begins with “An Unforeseen Duty,” immediately letting readers know the book takes place in 1307. Kat Black does an unbelievable job “painting” a vivid mind movie:
As I introduce the beginning of this book (page 3) to my students whole-group, I ask about specific sensory language the author used and the mood it created in the reader’s mind. We use Storia’s highlighter feature to make those words “pop.” The mood is generally mysterious in a negative light. In the second paragraph, the word choice “dung-heap-cheater” shows the narrator of the story possesses low confidence because these words persistently echo in his mind. It is almost as if he feels guilty and forsaken because he feels hot, inside and out, and the “breath of the forest” whispers along his neck. (I can go back to that statement and highlight it as an example of personification.)
In the third paragraph, another one of our state standards is addressed—time-period language. “Can ye no’ see I’m busy, yo gomerel?” This kind of language is called “baroque.” I do not expect my students to understand sentences like these off the bat or what “gomerel” means, yet they understand the author has used language that would have been used in that time period. Readers then learn that is what his brother said to him—and perhaps that’s why he feels so “forsaken.” Family is a value we hold close.
From there, on pages 4–7, I think it is an excellent opportunity to have the students highlight author descriptions that expand on the fact that the main character is feeling nerve-racked and furious.
Students can also pinpoint descriptions that help them to visualize the character’s appearance:
These two pages also help us learn more about the character:
Here are words you can use the dictionary feature for:
Words to discuss:
I suggest you continue having your students read this book a little farther because they learn in the second part, “An Unexpected Visitor,” that Tormod comes across an opportunity to be heroic—a Templar knight asks him to deliver a secret message on parchment. At first, Tormod’s thirst for adventure is fueled, and the quest is invigorating. Further in the book, though, the quest endangers his life and he turns to desperation to escape the army of King Philippe le Bel of France. For a whole-book focus, this book is perfect for character development. I highly recommend this work of historical fiction—it’s unlike much of what your students may have ever read before.
January 28, 2013