Help me find this English Juvenile Historical Fiction!
October 17, 2006 2:43 AM   Subscribe

English Juvenile Historical Fiction: Help me find three books, which are written in an intelligent "teaching" style loosely based on real events. Plenty...

I remember reading these books over and over at a local library when I was about eight or nine and I cannot find them.

The first book is set in England in the year 1221 (the date being a palindrome is mentioned in the book) and is told from the point of view of a boy who is taken into a noble household. Memories of this one are sketchy. He copies part of a letter that he shouldn't have. His friend Barnabas dies of plague in London after running off to see a bear-baiting show. The boy's lord tells him about being in France and burning Joan of Arc. The lord has corns and an old woman gives our young lad something to soothe them. She's later suspected of witchcraft but her house is destroyed after a long bout of rain resulting in either a sinkhole or a mudslide.

The second book is definitely by the same author. It is written in the 1660's and is told from the point of view of a young girl and her brother who are sent from London to stay at a relative in the country. Their father is an architect who has been contracted to design a new country house for a wealthy man who's wife has died. There is a half-finished portrait of the wife in the old manor which will have to be torn down. The girl models for the painting and her brother tries to finish it. They steal their fathers plans and set out the outline for the new house in a different location so the old house doesn't have to be torn down. The book is based heavily on the diary of Samuel Pepys and mentions Christopher Wren and the fashions of the time.

Both of these books are incredibly rich in period details and present a very good picture of what life was like at the time.

The third book (which I thought might have been written by either Rosemary Sutcliffe or Susan Cooper, but this appears not to be the case) is set in the time of the Norman Conquest. A young girl is taken in to a Anglo-Saxon village and befriends a boy a little older than her. He steals the bards silver harp but is not punished and instead learns to play. The Normans come and there are skirmishes. The boy - now a youth - takes the harp and visits the Normans in the guise of a travelling troubador to gather intelligence. He is found out but bluffs his way home. Battle is prepared for and a raven banner is brought out of storage. There is the legend that victory will be granted if the banner flies but always at the cost of the standard-bearer.

Again, this book is rich in details about everyday life and is loosely based on real events.

Help me, Hive Mind! I've tried searching for these three without luck. My final resort will be to travel back to my childhood library and hope that the books are still in the collection.
posted by ninazer0 to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In what year were you eight or nine, and were you living in Australia at the time?
posted by pracowity at 3:38 AM on October 17, 2006

Response by poster: pracowity: 1981/82 and yes.
posted by ninazer0 at 3:53 AM on October 17, 2006

I think maybe you want Geoffrey Trease.
posted by pracowity at 4:25 AM on October 17, 2006

"Samuel Pepys is a major character in Popinjay Stairs" (by Trease). Does this cover look familiar?
posted by pracowity at 4:33 AM on October 17, 2006

Response by poster: Ok. Update: A librarian friend has identified the third book as "The Shield Ring" by Rosemary Sutcliffe, so just the first two to go! Live and learn, eh?

Pracowity: I don't think the first two were written by Geoffrey Trease. I went through his book-listing and although I have read many of them, they don't sound quite right. The Popinjay Stairs - so far as I can tell - is close, but not the one. Excellent call, however. I read a lot of Mr Trease at that time, so you're spot on.
posted by ninazer0 at 7:54 PM on October 17, 2006

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
In this thread, the wonderful user paduasoy has accidentally answered my question, with the answer being Cynthia Harnett's books, "The Writing on the Hearth" and "The Great House," respectively.

I had some details wrong which likely threw people off but I'm overjoyed to find these books again after all these years!
posted by taz (staff) at 1:17 AM on February 5 [6 favorites]

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