Finding novels for small groups or whole classes to read can be a difficult exercise. Here I'd like to introduce one of my favourite books - a great coming of age story appropriate for 8-14 year old readers: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan.
What’s the Story?
The Ruins of Gorlan is the first book in the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. It takes us to the fictional world of Araluen - similar to medieval England - a world of castles and knights and the mysterious Rangers.
The hero of the story is Will, a young orphan who wants to be trained to be a knight like his fellow ward (and - at the beginning of the book - rival) Horace. However, he is considered too small to join the battle school and is instead apprenticed to the enigmatic Ranger, Halt. We follow his training as an apprentice until an almost forgotten enemy appears to test Halt, Will and others around them
What Kind of Story Is It?
Although there are some fantastical elements to this book (those elements aren't really present in later books in the series) it is primarily an adventure. It's also an origin story - we see how Will enters training as a Ranger, how he is challenged through that training and asked to make decisions which will shape his future, how he interacts with his mentor and how he can apply his training in an unthinkable situation.
We can compare this book with other origin stories, looking at what the traits of an origin story are and how we could change or challenge them. Students can also try to write their own origin stories - either of original or familiar characters.
How Can We Use The Ruins of Gorlan in the Classroom
There's a lot in this book which can be used in the classroom. The fictional medieval elements allow research and discussion of medieval history. The characters in the story are challenged by a number of situations, including bullying, not being able to follow their dreams, confronting fears and being persistent, allowing for some interesting discussions. There's also incredibly rich vocabulary used throughout the book, allowing for word work and discussions.
Have you taught The Ruins of Gorlan in your classroom? What ideas and themes did you focus on? Share your experience below in the comments.