HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Knights of the Round Table
Author: Gwen Gross
Illustrator: Norman Green
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers, reissued in 1985
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 6 and up
Rating: 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Gross, Gwen. Knights of the Round Table (published in 1975 by Random House Ind., 201 E. 50th St., New York City, NY 10022; republished by Scholastic Inc., 730 Broadway, New York City, NY 10003). This introduction to the Arthurian legends for children before they can manage Howard Pyle or Sir Thomas Malory’s editions contains short chapters which tell about the sword in the stone, Lancelot and the fiery-mouthed dragon, the beautiful witch Morgan Le Fay with her scheme to usurp the throne, Sir Gawain’s marriage to the ugly Ragnall to save Arthur, the kitchen knight known as “Big Hands” who rescues the Lady Linness, and Mordred’s treachery leading to the last battle. Readers are asked to imagine a mythic kingdom in England of wizards and witches, fire-breathing dragons, and dreadful giants. Who can rule this magical land? Who can overcome the powers of evil? It is the destiny of King Arthur and his noble knights, who protect and serve the people of Camelot.
In the Preface, the author writes, “Was there a real King Arthur? People who study the past think there was. They know only a little about him. He ruled in England about fifteen hundred years ago. He won many battles. And he was a king no one could forget.” Of course, what little we know about the real Arthur is quite different from all the legends that grew up around him, but the legends have become part of our English literature and still deserve to be studied. Many of those legends contain a great deal of immorality, such as Guinevere’s adultery, which is not appropriate for young children and is thankfully omitted in this book. The simple vocabulary with large print and the gray pencil and charcoal drawings will appeal to early readers.
One of the biggest complaints about this book was the bad grammar with a lot of sentence fragments which make the narrative choppy. “For seven days King Arthur and Sir Gawain rode through the land. They asked the riddle of every woman they met. Young maidens with flowers in their hair. Mothers carrying their babies. Poor women tending sheep by the road. Rich ladies covered with jewels. Some said that women wanted beauty. Some said love. Or wisdom. Or children. Or riches. Or Adventure. Or truth.” I noticed this in reading it aloud. While one wouldn’t hold the book up as a model of sentence structure, it could be argued that the stories are written in the same style with which we often speak to express emotion and inflection of voice. The book is apparently available in two editions. Someone suggested that the Bullseye Classics version is without what some see as the horrendous grammatical errors, whereas the Stepping Stone edition is thought by them to be quite poorly written.