________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 20 . . . . June 8, 2001

cover King Arthur.

Andrew Matthews. Illustrated by Peter Utton.
London, UK: Orchard Books (Distributed in Canada by Raincoast Books), 1999.
109 pp., pbk., $19.95.
ISBN 1-84121-183-4.

Subject Headings:
Arthur, King-Legends.
Knights and knighthood-Folklore.

Grades 3 - 6 / Ages 8 - 11.

Review by L.M. Sykes.

**** /4


It felt as though he were holding moonlight in his hand. "Is it really mine?" he whispered.

"The sword's name is Excalibur," said Merlin. "For a time it will be yours, though there will come a day when you will have to give it back. Until then, its power is joined with yours."

By the time the boat returned to the lakeshore, Arthur could hardly keep his eyes open. He stumbled towards the distant campfire gleaming between the trees.

"When you wake, it will seem as though you dreamed all this," Merlin said, "but Excalibur will be by your side."

"Yes," mumbled Arthur.

He didn't understand what had happened, or what was happening. All he understood was sleep. And when he reached his bracken bed he almost collapsed on to it.

"Nothing is ever finished," he heard Merlin say. "Remember, just when you think things have come to an end, they will be only beginning."

Andrew Matthew's re-telling of the great legend of King Arthur provides a most entertaining reading experience. The author sets the scene with some introductory remarks which include a very apt definition of a legend:


"A legend starts off as a true story, but as the story is told over and over again, it gets mixed up with peoples hopes and dreams.

Some things are missed out, and new things are added along the way, and in the end facts and imagination run into one another so that it's impossible to tell which is which."

True to his definition, the author, himself, blends the 'facts' of Arthur's well-known tale with his own fresh perspective as he recounts the amazing events of Arthur's life. Beginning with his birth, the legend continues to unfold with Arthur's crowning as High King of Britain, marriage to Guinevere, formation of the Round Table and many battles leading up to his tragic, final battle. Throughout the tale, the reader is introduced to the heroic, yet very human, Arthur, as well as, the other well-known characters familiar to the legend including: the mysterious Merlin, lovely Guinevere, honourable Sir Lancelot and evil Morganna. In Matthew's version, the characters really do come to life.

      The tale of King Arthur is told by Matthews in twenty-two short chapters, listed in a Table of Contents, with each chapter being approximately four pages in length. This format makes for an ideal read-a-loud for classroom use or bed-time sharing at home, and the suspenseful closings of each chapter will have readers looking forward to the next. The author's concise, conversational writing style and choice of interesting, yet not overwhelming, vocabulary will greatly appeal to young readers while still impressing adults.

      In addition, the artwork of Peter Utton truly complements the text and expresses the dramatic mood of the legend and flavour of the medieval era. His detailed paintings vary in size from small vignettes to full page scenes, and each page also contains manuscript letters, bright designed borders and unique chapter symbols.

      Young readers will no doubt be fascinated by the weapons, armour and realistic battle scenes found in King Arthur. While Matthews balances this by stressing Arthur's weariness from battle and longing for peace, adults will need to be prepared for the inevitable questions concerning the violence and magic in the story.

      Overall, King Arthur is well-written, beautifully presented and sure to entertain.

Highly Recommended.

Lisa Sykes, who has worked as an early years teacher and teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB, is currently on maternity leave and enjoying her time at home with her two young children.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364