Nancy Springer,
Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest
(Philomel, 2001)

Celandine, the gentle healer and wisewoman of the northern forest, is dead, killed when superstitious Normans condemned her as a witch and burned her alive in her own cottage. But Celandine's 13-year-old daughter, Rosemary, was out in the woods collecting herbs when the small mob came, and she was spared the flames.

Devastated by her mother's death and with nowhere else to turn, Rosemary disguises herself as a boy and sets out for distant Sherwood Forest, where she has heard her father makes his home. Her father, whom she has never met, is the notorious Saxon outlaw Robin Hood. But are the stories of his kindness and generosity true? Will he accept a daughter he has never seen?

Now called Rowan, the resourceful girl befriends a wolf and gathers together her own ragtag band of misfits who follow her lead. She, like her father, runs afoul of Norman laws, finding herself on the run from the Nottingham sheriff and the fierce Guy of Gisborn. But more than any punishment, she fears revealing her identity to Robin, who might not be thrilled to learn he has a daughter living rough and wild in his woodland domain.

Nancy Springer has added new layers to the Robin Hood legend with this story, which sparked a young-adult series of tales. Rowan is a strong central figure, and her interactions with Robin and his famed band of men adds a firm foundation for this new heroine.

While this is by no means a pivotal addition to the legend -- nor will it replace the standard tales of Robin, Will, Tuck and Little John -- it is a fresh take that gives young readers a female protagonist they can admire and enjoy. Adult readers may find this book a little light for their tastes, but it's a quick read and interesting enough to hold the attention of anyone with a passion for Robin Hood fiction and folklore.

by Tom Knapp
10 September 2005

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