The Sword in the Stone

Common Sense Media says

Brilliant, high-level take on Arthur's childhood.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The Wart behaves nobly and considerately on many occasions.


A battle to kill monsters, a boar hunt in which a dog is killed.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking and pipe smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there is some hunting and fighting but, compared with today's fantasies for children, there is very little violence.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Before Camelot, before Excalibur and the Round Table, and Lancelot and Guinevere, there was a boy who would one day be the legendary King Arthur.

He grows up a foster child in the castle of Sir Ector. He and his foster brother, Kay, roam the fields and forests of Dark-Age Britain, train to be knights, and are taught by an old magician named Merlin. To educate young Arthur (called Wart), Merlin transforms him into a variety of animals and Wart learns valuable life lessons from each.

Is it any good?


This is one of the most challenging books aimed at children. The original wasn't meant for them, but this edition, gorgeously illustrated by Dennis Nolan is. Even adults may find it heavy going at times, with its old-fashioned, British text, filled with long passages of description, dialects, advanced vocabulary, literary and historical references, and a very dry wit.

But for experienced readers and listeners, it's worth the trouble; surely there can be no version of the Arthurian cycle more beautifully written, warm-hearted, and affectionate, nor one containing a more appealing child. The young Arthur depicted here is boyishly loving and kind, deeply honorable and empathetic, brave and stalwart. In every way the reader can see all the virtues we have come to associate with King Arthur and Camelot, condensed into a very real child who somehow never comes off as unctuous. And that character is perfectly captured in Nolan's luminous portraits of the young Arthur.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about discuss Merlin's teaching methods. What do you think of training a king by having him live with and learn from a variety of animals? Is everything we need to know to achieve wisdom to be found somewhere in the animal kingdom? Can you imagine what it would be like to live with other animals than the ones included here? Also, the book is chock-full of dry humor, advanced and old-fashioned vocabulary, and literary and historical allusions that your child may need help with.

Book details

Author:T. H. White
Illustrator:Dennis Nolan
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Group
Publication date:January 1, 1939
Number of pages:256
Read aloud:10
Read alone:12

This review of The Sword in the Stone was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written bysarasnake99 January 10, 2011

Great book!

I, personally, loved this book. Not my favorite ever, but it was a very good read.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written byavidcritc April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

great story

i love the story of King Arthur, even though the writing is a little bit hard to get through. sometimes i felt like i was slogging down a marsh, having to exert a huge effort to pick up one foot at a time and keep moving forward. okay, maybe that's a little overdramatic. i take most of it back. one of the things i found particularly funny is that King Arthur- the great King Arthur, whom legend says ruled during the golden age of England and will return to rule again- had a nickname. and an embarrassing one at that. i mean, who thinks of glorious King Arthur as WART?
Teen, 14 years old Written byChiquita99 February 14, 2011
Hated it. Was horrible never read it it was really bad. I never want to read anything that has a title containing the words sword in stone.


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