Another adventure in the Sword Girl series featuring the feisty Thomasina. Tommy is invited to a tournament, but there's just one problem: she has never ridden a horse before.
rances Watts was born in Lausanne, a small city in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and moved to Sydney when she was three. She spent nearly ten years working with some of Australia's most talented children's authors and illustrators before writing a book of her own, Kisses for Daddy, illustrated by David Legge. Their second collaboration, Parsley Rabbit's Book about Books, won the Children's Book Council of Australia's Eve Pownall Award. Her picture book Goodnight, Mice! (illustrated by Judy Watson) was awarded the 2012 Prime Minister's Award.
Gregory Rogers was the first Australian to be awarded the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal. His first wordless picture book The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, the Bard was selected as one of the Ten Best Illustrated Picture Books of 2004 by the New York Times and short-listed for the CBCA Awards, Younger Readers, 2005 and the APA Best Designed Children's Picture Book, 2004. Gregory sadly passed away in 2013.
Frances Watts' charming little book, Tournament Trouble, is a delightful story and fun to read. The third book in the Sword Girl series, the main characters are already well established and the story is quick to get under way with the main character, Tommy, offered the chance to take the place of one of the squires in the coming tournament. The only problem is, she doesn't know how to ride, and the horse that she has been sent to learn on takes an immediate dislike to her. No-one can work out why to begin with, but it all comes down to the work of the jealous 'Keeper of the Bows' – her rival – and, once that is sorted out, all is well. Whilst talking animals and swords inhabited by the spirits of their last owners, not to mention Kitchen Girls working in the armoury and going jousting, puts this story firmly in the fantasy genre, it is nonetheless filled with some reasonably reliable and non-intrusive descriptions of life in medieval times.
As a primary school teacher with a love of medieval history, I have often facilitated a simulated learning unit around this theme and would definitely add this book (and its relations) to the library of classroom resources available to the children as they research their interests. As well as discussing the role of knights and castle life, and how and why tournaments were run, it would be important to talk about the station of women and why it would be unlikely – although perhaps not totally impossible - that Tommy would be given her job as 'Keeper of the Swords'. That said, it would be a great introduction to the women who did step outside their expected role and have found their place in history, and to look at the variety of occupations in which women did participate (and which might surprise quite a few people today).
A lovely book, Tournament Trouble would be enjoyed by confident readers from Year 1 or 2 right through to children in Year 4 or 5 who might respond well to the simpler text and sense of adventure. Tommy is, without doubt, also a great little character to tempt those girls who are not quite the 'fairy' types into reading for fun.
Cate Whittle, ACT
Why haven’t I read this series before? I have been terribly remiss, as Frances Watts’ Sword Girl series is full of wonderful, old-fashioned fun! The heroine, Tommy, is a big-hearted girl with lots of determination and oodles of courage. She works in a castle as the Keeper of the Blades, cleaning and sharpening all the swords and knives. When she is asked to stand as a last-minute replacement in the local tournament she is thrilled. The fact that she has never ridden a horse before is the one dampener on her enthusiasm. Tommy, however, wastes no time in learning how to ride – but it does not quite go to plan. The alternative? learn to ride on a crocodiddle, of course!Not only does Tournament Trouble have a fantastic main character and an amusing plot, but it is peopled with a delightful supporting cast. The talking swords who give such sympathetic and sage advice are reminiscent of Lumiére, Cogsworth and Mrs Potts from Beauty and the Beast; and Lil, the cat, and Mr Crocodiddle are equally endearing.An excellent read-aloud book for 7 to 9 year olds, Tournament Trouble would be a great addition to the classroom library, for sharing or individual reading. Watch out for the other books in the Sword Girl series: The Secret of the Swords, The Poison Plot and The Siege Scare, and engage those reluctant readers!
Jo McDougall, Geelong, Victoria
This book is the fourth in a series about Tommy, Keeper of the Blades at Flamant Castle. Whilst everyone else seems to be excited about the tournament in progress, Tommy doesn’t even get a look-in, as she is needed to do her task of sharpening and polishing the blades. Tommy’s dearest wish is to one day become a squire herself, so when a freak accident puts a competitor out, Tommy is asked to fight in the tournament. There is, however, one small problem: Tommy has never ridden a horse before and will have to learn in a hurry if she wants to achieve her dreams of being the first ever girl squire.Unfortunately the jealous Reynard has been up to some nasty tricks and the horse Tommy is given keeps throwing her off. Again the friendly, talking animals solve the problem between themselves and Tommy is able to fight and indeed win the tournament. This story is 102 pages and illustrated in black and white with drawings by Gregory Rogers. Children aged eight to twelve would enjoy reading about life in a medieval castle with a hint of the magical in the talking animals. Tommy is a likeable character, working hard to achieve her dreams and remembering to go back and thank those who helped her. Reynard, with his obvious character flaws, gets his comeuppance.This novel would be great for a read aloud including opportunities for children to develop prediction skills.
Nova Gibson, Massey Primary
In this Cinderella style story, a character named Tommy transforms into what she had always dreamed of, but not before she is tested to the limits of her self confidence. Her animal friends encourage her. However, opposition from the Keeper of the Bows comes to light.
Tommy, Keeper of Blades or Sword Girl as everyone refers to her, is asked to replace a squire with a broken leg in the tournament at Flamant Castle. She takes the opportunity gladly but later concedes to not being suitable, because she is not liked by the only horse she was able to ride. The horse accuses her of cruelty. Defended by her friends, who eventually help Tommy find out the culprit and true wrong doer in the whole affair, the bully Reynard, keeper of the Bows, Tommy gallops to victory. A landscape penned out by Gregory Rogers, of turrets, medieval castles and motes, Blacksmiths and forges, makes a great setting for a story about a small protagonist with a lot of courage who every 9 year old would want to swap places with. Reading It invoked my memories of using noodles to play jousting at children’s medieval parties which was lots of fun.
Discuss medieval times, castles, heraldry, jousting, knights and squires and look at some examples of Gregory Roger’s illustrations in Hero of Little Street, The bear , the boy, the baron and the bard and other Frances Watts stories.
About the text
Chapt 2: Crocodiddle and Lil help her with her new challenge to ride a horse.
Chapt 4: Tommy meets the Morris dancers. How does Gregory Rogers make the Morris dancers seem humorous?
Chapt 6: Sword Girl needs help and so she seeks advice from the sword spirits, and friends Lil and Crocodiddle. What do they say to her?
How does Lady Beatrix help?
Create a character map showing the relationships between the characters in the story. Use Inspiration, Free Mind, and Bubbl.us.
Chapt 9: Research the rules and equipment of a jousting tournament.
If the swords can talk and the animals talk then there’s no reason why the trees and buildings couldn’t join in!