Robin is the young son of Sir John de Bureford, a nobleman of London, England, in the early 1400s. Ever since he can remember, has been told what is expected of him as the son of a nobleman to learn the ways of knighthood. His father is off fighting the Scottish wars and his mother is away attending to the Queen who becomes ill during an outbreak of the plague. Robin himself is to be taken to the castle of his cousin Sir Peter de Lindsay to serve as a squire but becomes ill and loses the use of his legs. Fearing the plague, all the servants abandon him and some even die, so Robin is left alone. A monk named Brother Luke rescues the boy and takes him to the hospice of St. Mark’s, where he is taught woodcarving. With the help of the monks, Robin learns patience and strength. Brother Luke tells him, “Thou has only to follow the wall far enough and there will be a door in it.”
While still suffering from crooked feet and lameness, Robin eventually gains sufficient strength and learns to walk with crutches, so he can be taken by Brother Luke and the minstrel John-go-in-the-Wynd to the Castle Lindsay. They experience many exciting adventures along the way, but Robin continually wonders what his father will think of him in his weakened condition, since he can never become a knight. After they arrive at the castle, it is attacked by the Welsh. Is there anything that Robin, who cannot mount a house and ride off into battle, might do to find a “door in the wall” that will help save the townspeople and earn the respect of his father? This is a genuinely moving story which won the 1950 Newbery Medal. One could wish that all the books which receive the award today were as beneficial and satisfying as this one.
Robin’s attitude at the beginning, and even after he first becomes ill, is somewhat selfish and even whiny as one might expect from the spoiled son of a nobleman, but he certainly learns better as a result of his sufferings and his effort to overcome them. Many good character traits are exemplified. Each one of us has some kind of handicap or disability, and what happens Robin teaches us that rather than feeling sorry for ourselves or worse yet complaining about our lot, we should be looking for “the door in the wall” that will enable us to do what we can. The only objection is a few references to drinking ale. Also some common Roman Catholic concepts and practices of the day are mentioned, but these show how important religion was during that time. We did this as a family read aloud, and all of us really liked it.