A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a tale of knights and battles, with many deaths, though none are described graphically. The main character is loyal and brave.
What's the story?
Orphan Terence has grown up under the care of a hermit who can see the future. When Gawain, soon to be Sir Gawain of the Round Table, stops by, the hermit sends Terence to be Gawain's squire. Gawain is a kind and noble master, Terence is a loyal and brave squire, and together they share many adventures and a deepening friendship. But Terence's parentage is mysterious, and he may have a strange connection to the faery world.
Is it any good?
Arthurian tales can be rather stilted and distant, though in Morris' hands, their bedrock humanity is revealed. The world of King Arthur is an apparently limitless source of inspiration for writers, artists, playwrights, directors, singers, and poets; its combination of nobility, idealism, magic, and tragedy is unmatched in world mythology and legends. But rarely has there been a version as warmhearted and satisfying as this.
Author Gerald Morris employs some brilliant techniques. He combines courtly formal language and storytelling with wicked humor and modern anachronism to great effect, using it to illuminate character, particularly that of Gawain, who can speak in flowery phrases with the best of them, but reverts to a more earthy, modern idiom when annoyed. Morris tells the story through the eyes of a young squire with a mysterious heritage, and it's immensely satisfying to watch his growth and dogged loyalty. He also brings out the humor inherent in the stories, much as T. H. White did for an older audience. But mostly it's the focus on the growing friendship between kind knight and eager squire that gives this tale more than the usual depth and soul.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the world of King Arthur. Why does it continue to fascinate and inspire us? How real was it? Children who read this may want to read the other books that comprise The Once and Future King, and may be interested in some of the sources, including Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory, The History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, as well as some of the other children's versions mentioned in the Related Books section below.