Where is Robin Hood when you need him? Closer than you think.
Admiration for his hero earned Pip, 12, the nickname “Baby Robin,” a source of both pride and chagrin—he’s yet to hit a target with his bow and arrow. Pip’s cousins Lucy and Harold support him even when pride causes Pip to lose his penny in a contest. The children of wool merchants in 12th-century England, they wish Richard the Lionheart would return to oust Prince John, but only Pip is foolhardy enough to provoke the local baron’s men, brushing off warnings to be careful in dangerous times—after all, Robin Hood wouldn’t stand by as innocent peasants are beaten and starved. Accompanying his father to the Bradford Fair offers new opportunities to emulate his hero. There, Pip talks Harold and Lucy into a daring exploit that goes awry. Averting disaster requires effort, ingenuity, and new allies. Like the word “kids” in the title, the children’s dialogue skews contemporary (“okay” and “yeah, I guess”), an effect that’s exacerbated by the insufficiently detailed setting. Characters, all seemingly white, are heroes or villains. Even readers familiar with the folk hero’s mythology will be perplexed by Pip’s repeated contests with and taunting of the powerful, who can and do crush those he wishes to defend. Conflicts are easily resolved, lessons tidily learned.
Intermittently exciting despite a far-fetched plot and slapdash execution. (Historical fiction. 8-11)