The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli is a slim, inviting book of only 121 pages, but it uses those few pages to open a world of knights and monks and medieval life through the character of the boy, Robin.
Robin was the son of a nobleman, born to a life of the higher class, and he was on the verge of taking the first step into his own manhood, at the age of ten being sent away to live in the household of another knight. There he would serve his liege lord and learn all the ways of knighthood. His father was off to fight the Scots, and his mother was leaving to assist the Queen, who was in ill health. Unfortunately, the day after they left and before he left for the knight's household, a malady struck the boy, which left him sick, his legs paralyzed and his back bent. Arrangements were further complicated by the plague, which made communications spotty.
Into this situation, a traveling monk, Brother Luke, arrives and takes the boy with him back to St. Mark's, where he can be cared for until other arrangements can be made. Robin is a little sulky, a little uncooperative, and a bit of self-importance rests upon him, but he is also bright and energetic, and he rises to the challenges of learning how to navigate the world with a bent back and useless legs. The monks are patient and understanding, treat him respectfully but help him understand some of his situations from a higher point of view
What Robin worries most about is, what now is his place in the world? How can he become a knight with useless legs? Will his father be ashamed of him when he returns and sees what has become of his boy?
Because this tale takes place during the time of castles and fortressed quarters, protective walls rise across the way one might want to go. Robin is assured by Brother Luke that one only needs to follow the wall long enough, and a door would appear. Robin finds this to be true literally, when he effects a daring mission to help rescue the besieged holding where he is staying, and he also realizes it is true in regards to his own physical condition. As he came upon and walked along the wall of his limitations, he looked for and found the doors that opened into new meaning and purpose for his own life.
This is a heartwarming story with plenty of excitement and adventure. At first, I felt a little annoyed at how thoughtlessly Robin acted in his self-importance, but I realized that first off, he's just a boy of ten, and that's often the way kids are. And that was certainly the class attitude of the times, so I appreciated the realism. Robin did grow in his maturity and humility, but kept the self-confidence of his status.
The cover art was obviously updated for this edition, and I don't care for it. In fact, that was one reason I'd put off reading it. Somehow, the boy looks like a modern youth, and the monk and the minstrel are depicted comically, giving you the impression of a completely different sort of story. The interior artwork, by the author, fits the story better.
I bought this book at the thrift store for a buck fifty.