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!Read E-pub Å Tod of the Fens ⚛ Mystery farce with historical novel aspects set against the development of England s merchant fleet and its trade in wool with the continent in the early th century A bluff and jovial man, with an infectious laugh and a great shock of unkempt hair, Tod of the Fens leads a band of merry rogues and adventurers who live in rude huts in the fens near the port of Boston and prey on travelers for fun Tod takes into his band Dismas, who is really Henry, the Prince of Wales For a lark, he wagers Tod s men that in a week and a day he will make fools of all the townsmen in Boston Assuming various disguises, he steals one by one the five keys to the town strong box he leaves the contents untouched and deposits the ekeys at the foot of the steeple of St Botolph s The townspeople assume their treasure has been stolen, and suspicion falls on the wrong person A series of amusing misadventures ensues involving a large number of people until finally Tod of the Fens takes possession of the treasure Read the full review here Read the full review here Newbery winning authors have had a wide variety of career paths Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings won a Pulitzer Prize The Yearling, 1939 almost two decades before her Newbery Honor for The Secret River Esther Forbes wrote primarily for adults, but took home the 1944 Newbery Medal for her historical children s novel, Johnny Tremain Robert Lawson s legacy was equal parts writing and illustrating, and he won Newbery and Caldecott citations throughout his career Russell Freedman earned three Newbery H Newbery winning authors have had a wide variety of career paths Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings won a Pulitzer Prize The Yearling, 1939 almost two decades before her Newbery Honor for The Secret River Esther Forbes wrote primarily for adults, but took home the 1944 Newbery Medal for her historical children s novel, Johnny Tremain Robert Lawson s legacy was equal parts writing and illustrating, and he won Newbery and Caldecott citations throughout his career Russell Freedman earned three Newbery Honors and the 1988 Medal Lincoln A Photobiography despite exclusively authoring nonfiction, a category that historically had been overlooked by Newbery Like those four, Elinor Whitney has a notable backstory Cofounder of The Horn Book Magazine in 1924, Ms Whitney wrote only a few kids novels, but Tod of the Fens a comedic look at life in 1400s Boston, England was acknowledged as one of its era s premier books for young readers In the spirit of Robin Hood, Tod and his coterie of jokesters live apart from society, devising riddles to tell and audacious tricks to attempt under the noses of the unsuspecting These free spirits operate in the background of Tod of the Fens, subtly directly the drama that surrounds a financial snafu which threatens Boston s leading citizens Sir Frederick Tilney is a wealthy merchant dissatisfied with England s international trade agreement He wants a freer market for import and export, but the Hanseatic League opposes him Some in Boston would see Sir Frederick ruined, but his fourteen year old daughter Johanna is far removed from such concerns Not yet dignified like her mother, Lady Mathilda, Johanna prioritizes exploring and adventure over courtship, but Sir Frederick isn t worried She will be ready to wed in her own time Trouble is brewing in Boston The keys to the town coffer, which holds a large quantity of money, have been stolen Sir Frederick and other officials can t even open the coffer to confirm the funds are gone, but surely one who troubled himself to steal the keys would have removed the coffer s contents Alan Marflete and a man named Skilton undoubtedly are involved in the heist, but Sir Frederick can only imply his suspicions when Marflete publicly accuses Sir Frederick of wrongdoing The means to upend Marflete are, however, at Tod s disposal, but he wants to have his fun before revealing Marflete as a scoundrel and restoring Sir Frederick s honor Johanna has her own adventure to complete first, and the comedy of errors surrounding the supposedly empty coffer is magnified a dozen times or so before Tod resolves the mystery All s well that ends well, and Sir Frederick s foresight will someday usher in an exciting era of partnership between England and the Americas The seeds of it are scattered throughout this novel Tod of the Fens lacks not for potential, but the writing and story are confusing I found it impossible to keep straight how Tod s actions affected the Tilneys, and the import of all the goodnatured trickery among Tod s friends The narrative feels distant, and by the end I only vaguely understood the two hundred thirty nine pages I d just read There are a few interesting passages, though, such as when Tod contrasts his lifestyle with that of Boston s respected citizens Some men call us idle, but what, forsooth, is idleness Is it to laugh and be merry, and to be no man s enemy and is busy ness to quarrel over gold and silver and be no man s friend I quarreled once over gold and silver, but dost think they are worth it What good is life if not to be enjoyed, to balance work with adventure, philosophy, and innovation Is itproductive to scrape for every dollar to add to your bank, or to be content with the rich rewards of the human condition The reason I don t rate Tod of the Fens higher than one and a half stars is its inaccessible language and muddled story, but there is value to these pages Elinor Whitney put a lot of work into creating an authentic period piece, and I hope kids continue to read it Originally published in 1928, Tod of the Fens is one of six titles chosen as a Newbery Honor Book in 1929 along with The Pigtail of Ah Lee Ben Loo , Millions of Cats , The Boy Who Was , Clearing Weather , and The Runaway Papoose and follows the story of a practical joke played by Prince Hal eventually King Henry V on the citizens of Boston, a wool trading town in the fens of Lincolnshire Although the book is named for him, Tod a sort of jovial semi outlaw unemployed sail Originally published in 1928, Tod of the Fens is one of six titles chosen as a Newbery Honor Book in 1929 along with The Pigtail of Ah Lee Ben Loo , Millions of Cats , The Boy Who Was , Clearing Weather , and The Runaway Papoose and follows the story of a practical joke played by Prince Hal eventually King Henry V on the citizens of Boston, a wool trading town in the fens of Lincolnshire Although the book is named for him, Tod a sort of jovial semi outlaw unemployed sailor, whose band frequents the watery labyrinth of the fens and so named because of his woolly hair a tod being a unit used to measure the weight of wool is really nothe focal point of the story, than any one of a number of other characters, from the masquerading Prince Hal, to the worthy Sir Frederic Tilney, with his visionary ship building project, or his daughter, Johanna.That fracturing of narrative focus, as it concerns the protagonist or lack thereof , can also be seen in the story itself, which seems to jump around quite a bit, shifting from Prince Hal s trickery, to Sir Frederic s new trading partnership, to town politics, to Johanna s growing relationship with her young intended, Gilbert Branche, to scheming German Easterling merchant pirates The result is an oddly disjointed and unsatisfying story that never really allows the reader to really settle into its world, or identify with its characters It was all very interesting, of course the depiction of the wool trade in the fifteenth century the author gives a list of historical sources, in the rear of the book , the tensions between England, which had as yet to truly develop a merchant fleet, and her continental neighbors the Germans, in particular, are described in a racialized way, as being course and red , the portrait of the social customs of the day but in the end, I wasn t terribly impressed.Still, I don t want to overstate the case Although Tod of the Fens probably isn t a tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat, it wasn t terrible either Whether it deserved to be Newbery material is another question, of course The illustrations by Warwick Goble, who is particularly known for his fairy tale art, were very appealing, both the plates and the chapter heading black silhouettes All in all, this is one I would recommend to those readers with an interest in the history of historical fiction for children, to anyone with a desire to read all the Newbery selections, or to Warwick Goble Fans I m giving this disjointed novel 2.5 2.75 stars, rounding up to 3 stars The author was clearly trying for a multiple POV, multiple plotline story that centered on Tod, the character from the book s title the operative word being trying Also Tod is not the center of the tale although he stands near it The theme that theoretically ties everything together is trickery Tod and his merry men they re not Robin Hood, but close make a not quite legal living in the fens near Boston, England Fo I m giving this disjointed novel 2.5 2.75 stars, rounding up to 3 stars The author was clearly trying for a multiple POV, multiple plotline story that centered on Tod, the character from the book s title the operative word being trying Also Tod is not the center of the tale although he stands near it The theme that theoretically ties everything together is trickery Tod and his merry men they re not Robin Hood, but close make a not quite legal living in the fens near Boston, England For fun they play endless pranks At some point they encounter Henry, Prince of Wales, and future king Henry V who it seems also enjoys playing pranks this is really the tale s center and who goes incognito as Dismas to trick the people ruling Boston via an elaborate theft of keys to the town coffer The evening town gate guard has some opportunity to catch things out as he spots Dismas multiple times in multiple guises There is a side plot of one of the ruling families decision to go into ships and trading I feel that this is here simply so the author can point to it and state this is the origin of Britain s mercantile empire Anyway there are many characters all of whom play some small part in some piece of several tales and somehow connect back to Dismas s prank I read this for my 2017 Reading Challenge and for my Newbery Challenge Honor Book 1929