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Conrad Buff was born in Switzerland in 1886, studied art in his native country and in Germany, them emigrated to the United States in 1904, settling in Los Angeles, where he became a noted landscape artist.  Along with his wife Mary, he coauthored/illustrated a number of children's book, among them this Newbery Honor winner, which recounts the legend of the Swiss hero, William Tell.

The story is simply told, from the perspective of twelve year old Walter, who has the famous apple shot off his head.  In 1290, the good king Rudolph has died; leader of Germany, Austria, and the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Underwalden, he collected taxes yearly but otherwise left the stubborn and independent mountain people of Uri alone.  But his son Albrecht rules with a harder hand, and his deputy, Gessler, who is building a permanent castle at Altdorf, is particularly despised.  William Tell is part of a group, eleven men from each canton, who plan to revolt in 1291, but events get ahead of him when he and Walter travel to Altdorf.  There, Gessler's henchmen have placed a nobleman's feathered cap upon a tall pole and require the men of Uri to bow to it, which William refuses to do, setting in motion the train of events that bring honor to his name even seven hundred years later.

This is a thrilling story of "one man's revolt against tyranny", with serious themes of independence and freedom and responsibility.  Kids, especially boys, will love it and even parents will learn from it.


Grade: (A)