SANDELL, Lisa Ann. Song of the sparrow. Scholastic. 392p. bibliog. c2007. 0-439-91848-0. $16.99. JSA *
Once more to the Arthurian Legend we go, as have thousands of others so many times in past centuries. This time the story centers on Elaine, the Lady of Shalott, made famous in modern times in the poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in 1842. Sandell's Elaine is a young woman modern YAs will find intriguing: an independent, courageous beauty trying to find her way in a man's world. Sandell uses poetry to tell the story, and the brief lines propel the reader forward as the action and emotion build. Elaine, who legend portrays as a beautiful object, here narrates the story, telling of her responsibilities as healer and mender of the bodies and armor of the knights around her. She is friends with the young warriors: Lancelot, Tristan, Gawain, and even Arthur himself. She is there when Arthur is selected by Merlin to be the leader. Dreading their first offensive battle against the Saxon invaders, she takes action to help them and in so doing, risks her own life. Sandell's lyrical passages grip the reader as Elaine journeys through strange countryside alone, is kidnapped, escapes and devises a plan to help her warrior friends. Fear is a constant, of course, even in the midst of Elaine's bravery. Other emotions are present in Elaine's crush on Lancelot, and her despair when she sees he loves Gwynivere; and in Gwynivere's resentment at having no choice in being selected as Arthur's bride and her disdain for Elaine, who she sees as wild and common, allowed to run free with the warriors. Fortunately, Gwynivere herself is transformed by the events she and Elaine endure and the two form a strong friendship based on admiration and respect.
An excellent modern take on an old story, sure to be pleasing to readers, especially those who like the poetry format. The author's note helps to place Song of the Sparrow in the context of what is known about Arthur. Claire Rosser, KLIATT
J--Recommended for junior high school students. The contents are of particular interest to young adolescents and their teachers.
S--Recommended for senior high school students.
A--Recommended for advanced students and adults. This code will help librarians and teachers working in high schools where there are honors and advanced placement students. This also will help extend KLIATT's usefulness in public libraries.
*--The asterisk highlights exceptional books.