The Ruins of Gorlan: Ranger’s Apprentice Book 1 by John Flanagan
Ages 10 and up (AR Book Level is 7.0)
Summary: The Ruins of Gorlan is about a fifteen year old boy named Will. Will has been chosen to be the apprentice to the local Ranger (Rangers are the eyes and ears of the kingdom) and begins his training. He learns archery, knife skills, hunting, tracking, and a great deal of other skills all needed to be an effective spy. Soon though, Will and his mentor Halt find themselves to be key players as the battle between the kingdom and the evil Morgarath begins.
Cathi Says: The Ruins of Gorlan is the first in a series of books about Will and Halt. While there is nothing too scary in the book, there are some suspenseful scenes and two encounters with terrifying creatures. There is also some intense bullying that occurs, but as always good prevails. The entire series is fun to read for the whole family (even my husband loves the books!).
**Oak Leaf Necklace. All rangers wear an oak leaf around their neck. Bronze for apprentices and silver for full fledged members. Use our printable to create one with them! Once they are an apprentice, they can start their training with our other activities.
Apprentice Leaves (PDF)
**Mini bow and arrows. Just like Will, your children will need a bow and arrow! To make a mini version, use pliers to bend a paperclip into the shape of a bow. Make sure you leave notches or loops at the end to hold the “string.” We attached rubber bands for the string. Our rubber bands were too big, so we had to cut them and tie them onto the bows. We used q tips for arrows. Some of my kids liked to cut off one end, others left both ends on. It’s a personal preference.
There is a bit of a learning curve to using the bows, but anyone can do it once they get the hang of it (even my three year old managed to shoot it). We found it best to use only the thumb and pointer finger of each hand. My husband had fun designing different bows and my children played with them for HOURS!
**Water balloon target practice. Will had to practice every day to be able to shoot well. Create a target by drawing with chalk. If you like, you can give point values to each different colored ring.
Then use water balloons to aim and fire! Count up your points and see who has the wettest aim!
**DIY Bow and Arrows. Once you have the basics down with your mini bow and arrow and target practice, why not give a regular size one a try? This takes a bit more time to prepare than the mini version. If you have older children, it’s great to get them involved in the building and teach them a little how a bow and arrow work.
We made two different kinds. With a bow and arrow, you need one flexible component (either the bow or the string) and one sturdy component. The less effective version uses a curved stick found in our backyard and round elastic string, found in the sewing section of the local craft store. The more effective bow is made from thin, flexible PVC pipe and parachute cord.
I can’t lie. I had plans to do this as simply as possible, but my husband, sweet over-achieving perfectionist that he is, loves archery, and couldn’t resist getting involved. I’m going to attempt to explain things as best I can!
When making the stick and elastic version, all you do is tie the elastic, pulling it as tightly as possible, onto the already curved stick. Easy peasy.
When making the PVC version, you need to break out the tools. Our pipe was just over 3 feet. Drill a hole about 1/4 inch from each end and then use diagonal cutters to clip the hole at only ONE end to make a notch (so you have a notch on one end and a hole on the other end). Feed one end of the cord through the hole and tie a double half hitch knot and cinch it down tightly. Then tie an overhand loop on the other end of the cord to go over the notch. You will need the cord to be cut shorter than the pipe so that it bends into the shape of the bow when the cord is put on. Tada!
Now for arrows. The longer your arrows, the more force you will be able to put on them (and the farther and harder they will fly). My kids are young and don’t always think about where others are when they shoot, so I opted for shorter arrows. I bought a bag of 1 foot wooden dowel rods, but older kids and adults will want at least double this length.
Arrows need a weight at the tip. Again, wanting to protect my children, I blunted the tips of the dowels with a cotton ball wrapped with a piece of felt and held on with a rubber band. We used popsicle sticks (cut to size) and duct tape to create the nock at the back end of the arrow. We experimented with duct tape fletchings, but they didn’t seem to help the flight of the arrows, so we didn’t bother with all of that extra work.
To shoot the bow, put the arrow in the middle of the bow on the left side (for right handers). Loosely hold the arrow between your pointer and middle finger with your right hand, and hold the bow with your left hand so that the arrow rests on top of your bent pointer finger. The cord or string should be between the two long ends (the nock) at the back of the arrow so it stays on easily.
Pull straight back (don’t crook your wrist) as far as possible, making sure the arrow stays next to the bow. Release your right hand and send your arrow flying!
My kids shot arrows for a couple hours. They loved shooting, called themselves archers (just like Will), and especially liked moving and shooting. My three year old called it his “Duck and Shoot.”
After teaching and watching the kids (and making all those arrows), the adults wanted in on the action! We changed the cotton ball out for a rock and duct taped two of the dowels together (we didn’t have anything longer at the time). We were amazed at how far our homemade bow and arrows could shoot!
(Even grandpa wanted a turn!)
**DIY Quiver. Your apprentice will need something to keep the extra arrows in! An empty Pringles can is the start to a good child sized quiver. Cover it with construction paper and decorate however you like. One thing we learned–try to use a wide strap (instead of an uncomfortable thin string).
**Ranger’s certificate. Have your children proved their ranger skills? Print out our certificate so they can graduate from being an apprentice to being a ranger!
Ranger Certificate (PDF)
Visit a local archery range.
Practice stealthy moving and hiding like rangers. (Try hide and seek, but in this version, after a few minutes, the hider tries to find his way back to base without being seen.)
Additional Reads: There are currently 10 books in the Ranger’s Apprentice series, all by John Flanagan.