Sunday, April 3, 2016

Reading Through History: The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla (1956)

The Sword in the Tree is a beginning chapter book set in the time of King Arthur and first published in 1956. Shan is the son of Lord Weldon and Lady Marie. When Lord Weldon's brother, Lionel, arrives at the castle, Lord Weldon goes missing and is pronounced dead, and Lionel takes control, causing Shan and his mother to flee for the sake of their safety. Shan wants to reclaim his father's rightful place in the castle, but first he must prove he is the true son of Lord Weldon.

Kids love knights and castles and swords, but few first and second graders are ready to read longer, more complex King Arthur stories. This book makes it possible for them to enjoy the subject matter on their own level, but without sacrificing any of the suspense or excitement. The plot of this book is well-structured, unpredictable, and very satisfying. The characters, though not described in very much detail, come to life through their words and actions, and of course, the presence of King Arthur himself is a key part of the book's appeal. There is also a strong sense of right and wrong in the story, which I appreciate as a parent, and enough happiness in the ending to please sensitive readers who might be otherwise troubled by some of the story's events.

There are not enough well-written historical fiction or adventure stories for beginning readers. Though this one is old enough to have been enjoyed by many children's grandparents, it holds up so well that there is no reason libraries should not have it on their shelves today. Compared with contemporary offerings like the Kingdom of Wrenly series and Magic Tree House, this book is less predictable, more exciting, and better written. Very highly recommended.

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