I get a lot of my chapter book ideas from the Sonlight web site. This one, The Minstrel in the Tower by Gloria Skurzynski, is set right after the Crusades, in the year 1195 AD.
The children's mother is ill and asks the kids to travel afar to get her brother, an uncle that they have never met. It is several days away, and the children have to walk. They have no money. Instead, they have a lute. Their plan is to play their lute for strangers that they meet on the way in exchange for food. My girls were shocked that these kids will walk for several days, by themselves, to try to find a potential uncle. Chapter books have done a great job of introducing my kids to completely different lives!
Along the way the kids locate a tower, in which they spend the night. They are kidnapped and held for ransom by two men, who realize that they are actually the children of a famous nobleman. They plot their escape, and all turns out well.
This book was OK. I wish I liked it more. It was a quick read; it only took us two days to read it. But, there is very little character development - you really do not learn much about the kids and do not really care what happens to them. The plot is presented fairly matter or factly, with very little emotional descriptions.
The setting is of course very different than our current day lives, but it is not described very well. I wish the author had spent more time explaining what the Crusades were, what it was like to have their father gone for several years with no information about what has happened to him, what the children did during the day, etc. The book neither describes the historical events during which the novel is set nor the daily life of that historical time period. As such, the book is boring and not very educational.