From prolific, Newbery winner Avi, a novel set in the Middle Ages that is replete with authentic period details, page-turning brief chapters, and a plot filled with twists, turns, and political intrigue.
Avi expands on the historical footnote of an unnamed boy who challenged the kingship of Henry VII, was crowned briefly in Ireland, then led an army to England where he was soundly defeated. Lambert Simnel is a young orphan of unknown age who works and lives in a tavern where he is treated cruelly. A friar with his own selfish motives sees Lambert, purchases him, and schools him in the rules of behavior in order to pass him off as the previous king’s nephew, supposedly escaped from imprisonment. The first-person narration adds immediacy to Lambert’s fears and confusion. Having previously watched street actors, Lambert determines his best chance is to be a convincing player king, perpetuating the sham and nearly convincing himself. Although Lambert rises from a “loathed nobody” who spent “his life in a cellar, like a rotten turnip,” his fortune rapidly plummets. Touches of humor, brought about by both Lambert’s need for spiffing up and a colorful vocabulary (“gundy-gut,” “bootlicker,” “want-wit”), are sprinkled throughout. Unsurprisingly, the cast is an all-white one.
An appealing protagonist pursuing a grand adventure and struggling with themes of power, pride, and identity will appeal to fans of historical fiction. (Historical fiction. 9-12)