Adam of the Road is a children’s novel written by Elizabeth Janet Gray and illustrated by Robert Lawson. It won the Newbery Medal in 1943. Adam of the Road chronicles the adventures of Adam, an eleven-year-old minstrel in thirteenth-century England, as he travels with his father and dog.
Adam of the Road is over 300 pages, making it rather long for a children’s novel (perhaps in this post-Harry Potter era, this is not the case, although Adam of the Road is geared to a younger audience). Adam’s adventures keep the book moving fairly well, although it does tend to drag a little toward the end.
The book may hold some interest for adults as well, although they may be off-put by the fairly one-dimensional supporting characters and the narrator’s constant explanation of Adam’s emotional state (at least in children’s fiction these writing flaws are defensible, and even deliberate). Some great degree of suspense is lost, however, if the reader scans the back of the cover. The reader knows what the dramatic crises of the book will be, then waits half the book for them to occur. As the book approaches its end, the reader may well become impatient for the inevitable satisfactory resolutions.
What Gray does well is give an excellent depiction of the thirteenth century. She immerses the reader in the medieval world to a degree reminiscent of Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper (even if it is somewhat sanitized for children). She uses the terminology of the day, too, so even adults would be advised to keep a dictionary handy.
Adam of the Road is a fine children’s novel, even if it is a little flawed. It’s definitely worth a read by anyone with in interest in medieval life.