Monday, December 20, 2010

282. Arthur of Albion by John Matthews

Arthur of Albion by John Matthews. Paintings by Pavel Tartarnikov (Canada) - (US)


Pages: 136
Ages: 9+
Finished: Dec. 13, 2010
First Published: 2008 (Oct. 1, 2010 Chapter book edition)
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Genre: children, fantasy, legends
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

Long ago, in the time before now, when the world was stilled filled with marvels, a fair green island lay beyond the Pillars of Hercules.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Barefoot Books.

Reason for Reading: I love the old Arthurian Tales of Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table. Which this book is. FYI, I'm not so fond of modern retellings, only if they involve Arthur as a boy or focus on Merlin as the main character.

This book was published a couple years ago in an oversized picture book format which I am sure is simply breath taking and would be the edition you would want if you want to read this aloud to younger children or even a group of children. This edition I have has been reduced into a trade paperback chapter book edition, meant to be read alone. (but of course you can read it aloud too!) I've come to realize now that Barefoot Books produce quality books and Arthur, by example, is covered with thick stock card covers that have flaps and the inside pages are of the same thick quality, found in their hardcovers, not used by many publishers for softcovers.

The paintings by Tartarnikov are exquisite medieval representations of the scenes he has chosen to illustrate. Hi paintings are 3 dimensional but he does leave a small 2 dimensional aspect remindful of the artwork from the original time period. The paintings have a mystical, dreamy quality to them as he combines the magical with the reality of the then knights in all their splendiferous glory. A perfect illustrator for this text.

The book itself concentrates on retelling several stories from the multitude available. The stories start logically with the sword in the stone and end with the quest for the holy grail, but in between the tales are a various selection, of no particular order, mainly those featuring chivalry, saving maidens and fighting brutish knights. Of course, everyone is sent back to Arthur to tell his tale and this is the one constant through the flow of the individual tales. The author has managed to keep a sense of time and place in his choice of vocabulary making the book seem authentic to its medieval setting. This does make the book better suited to being read by the middle grades and up, though. None of the steamier storylines are introduced here, even though those characters are present, leaving only the convictions against Guinevere to be suggested. A lovely introduction to the Arthurian literary world.

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