Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

This is the second chapter book that I have read aloud to my children, ages 2 & 5, but I must say that they were much more engaged with Charlotte's Web than with The Trumpet of the Swan. By about half way through, my 5-year-old was listening attentively and eager to know what happened next, but the 2-year-old didn't seem to follow the story very well. It seemed more difficult for them to grasp the settings of Canadian wilderness and cities like Boston and Philadelphia than a barnyard. So maybe we will try this one again in a few years.

Louis the swan was born without the ability to trumpet, a disadvantage not only in communicating with his family but also and more importantly in finding a mate. With the help of his friend Sam Beaver, the boy who earned the swan family's trust at their Canadian nesting pond, Louis goes to school and learns to read and write. He can now communicate with people, but not his fellow swans who cannot read. When Louis falls in love (swans mate for life) and can't trumpet his affections to his chosen female, his father, the "old cob," steals a trumpet from a music store. By the time Louis learns to play the trumpet, Serena, the desire of his heart, has flown away. Nevertheless, he has many adventures as he seeks employment to pay back the debt of the stolen trumpet and restore his father's honor.

Aside from my misjudgment on age-appropriateness (for their attention spans, not the content), this is truly a delightful story. It does have a slower pace than Charlotte's Web, and since many of the characters are of the quiet, observant type there is more description and reflection than dialogue. The old cob, Louis's father, is one humorous exception, for he waxes eloquent at any opportunity until his wife wryly reminds him, "We've heard that before..." (186). In many other aspects, however, it shares several common themes with Charlotte's Web. Like Charlotte, the main human character (Sam Beaver) is more at home with nature than people, but also like Charlotte, he is only a supporting character for the main cast of creatures. As with Charlotte, the setting is realistic, the animals are generally in their natural habitat doing animal things, but there is a small element of fantasy that is so seamlessly woven into the story as to make it almost believable (to adults; I'm sure it's completely believable to children).

Eventually, we'll return to E. B. White and read Stuart Little, but for now we are reading something a bit simpler with more fantasy and action: My Father's Dragon and subsequent tales as recommended by Amy at Hope is the Word. In short, we all love it, and it's such a page-turner that I'll be reviewing it soon!


Carrie said...

Ooo. I have My Father's Dragon on the shelf here but I haven't read it so I'll look forward to your thoughts!

I had a hard time with Trumpet of the Swan too and wondered when it would be a good time to introduce it to my son. (He's 3 but I don't think he'd quite get it yet.) It IS harder to follow than Charlotte's Web - you're right!

hopeinbrazil said...

Both Trumpet of the Swan and My Father's Dragon were read aloud favorites at our house.

Page Turner said...

Well, even though I thought their interest was waning, they must have been paying attention. Yesterday, they were playing Camp Kookooskoos! I love it when a book inspires my kids' imaginations!