Set in London in 1735, this is the story of Forrest Harper, an eleven-year
old living with his family at the Tower of London. Accompanied by
his pet raven, Tuck, Forrest cares for the ravens that are caged
at the fortress. Forrest's loneliness is eased when he befriends
a local boy named Rat. The two boys imagine faraway lands, making
their fantasies lifelike by sketching scenes of knights, horses,
A young girl
arrives as prisoner at the Tower. The daughter of a Scottish Rebel,
and therefore, an enemy, Forrest and Maddy, too, become friends.
One day news comes that Maddy is to be executed, so Forrest, with
the help of Rat (now called Ned), devises a plan to free her.
own safety and that of his parents and sisters, Forrest (and Ned)
helps Maddy escape. The three ultimately grow up to fulfill their
destinies: Ned becomes a cabin boy on a ship and sails around the
world. Maddy lives safely in France. Forrest remains in London and
becomes a Ravenmaster at the Tower, like his father before him.
Set the Stage
Explain that this book is historical fiction, a story set in the
past that contains fictional characters. Talk about some historical
fiction students have already read. Bring out that books of this
genre are often written using the language of the period.
Show pictures of the Tower of London. Discuss when and how the Tower
was built. (See the Prologue and pp. 217-221 in the book for details.)
Introduce terms such as moat, ravenmaster, and Yeoman
Warder. Explain that the central character of the story is a
boy whose family lives in the Tower, tending to the ravens and the
prisoners. Explain that the boy faces a problem when he befriends
a Scottish prisoner.
After students have read the book, lead a thoughtful discussion with
- How did Forrest change from the beginning of the story to the
- What surprised you about life in the Tower of London in the
- Do you think that Forrest took good care of his pet, Tuck? Why
or why not?
- Do you think Forrest was wise to help Maddy? To help Ned? Why
or why not?
- How would your life be different if you lived in London in the
Students can check their understanding of special English words
from history by matching each word with its meaning.
and Copy the Classroom Activity Now (PDF)
To extend students' enjoyment of the book, try these:
- A to
Z: Make a large illustrated dictionary of special terms from
the book, such as breeches and ginger biscuit.
the Author: Find out more about author/illustrator Elvira
Woodruff in the Authors and Books section of our site.
Senses: Have students make a list of words or phrases from
the story that convey each of the five senses. For example, for
smell: "He breathed in the delicious aroma of oatacakes fresh
from the fire."
an English Fair: Have groups of students working on costumes,
food, and appropriate entertainment. Invite other classes to attend
It! Rat and Forrest used charcoal to draw pictures on the
walls. Ask pairs of students to use charcoal to draw favorite
scenes from the story.
the Facts: Using Internet and book research, have students
make a list of Top Ten Facts About the Tower of London.
- For the
Birds: Suggest that students create illustrated booklets on
ravens, with chapters on types, appearance, diet, habitats, and
breeding. Present the books to a younger class.
by Dr. Susan Shafer
Dr. Susan Shafer is a former elementary school teacher with more
than twenty years of classroom experience and a doctorate in education
from Teachers College, Columbia University. While teaching she received
special recognition for her innovative, theme-based teaching methods.
The author of two books for children and numerous articles for adults,
Susan is presently a freelance writer, editor, and educational consultant.