Sunday, 30 July 2017

The Secret Diary of John Drawbridge by Philip Ardagh, illustrated by Jamie Littler – review by Lynda Waterhouse

I am always surprised by the many ways that books find you and lure you into their secret worlds. This beauty came into my hands after I had read about it in a National Trust magazine. My excuse for hunting it down was for ‘research purposes’ as I was preparing for some creative writing sessions at Windsor Castle and St George’s Chapel. I already had Ewart Oakeshott’s A Knight and his Castle and several academic tomes but what I needed was a book that combined historical facts, a great character, brilliant illustrations, a cracking storyline, pathos and humour. I needed to find the Secret Diary of John Drawbridge!
John has just moved to Widemoat Castle to begin his training to become a knight. He has to start at the bottom and on his bottom ‘because training to be a page one getteth knocked over quite a bit.’ Not many people could write at the time so John is composing this diary in his head and we are all invited to become mind readers which doesn’t happen every day.
Unfortunately John’s annoying big brother, Hubert, is also at the castle. There are two other pages in training, Martin and Cadwallon, and there is Doug who ‘smelleth much of dog’ as he lives in the kennels.
This books is full of fascinating facts about the life of a page in a castle. The diary format works well as does the use of footnotes. Jamie Littler’s illustrations are a delight.  
John’s life is in danger as he races to uncover a plot to attack the castle – if you want to solve the mystery as well as learn plenty of fascinating facts whilst having a good laugh then you need to read this book.
There is now a copy lurking on a bookshelf inside Windsor Castle and I am looking forward to reading the other books in the Secret Diary series.
ISBN 978-085763-901-1

Published by Nosy Crow in partnership with the National Trust


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