The Sword in the Stone

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Sword in the Stone Book Poster Image
Parents recommend
Brilliant, high-level take on Arthur's childhood.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 8 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and pipe smoking.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKH1979 March 6, 2019

Great but watch out for the n-word!

The writing is beautiful and the story is elegant and funny of course, but I was totally shocked to see the n-word in it! If you’re reading it aloud you can of... Continue reading
Parent of a 9-year-old Written byprcardi March 1, 2017

Difficult for children, childish for adults

I am writing this review at some remove from the reading experience, thus it will lack the detail I typically try to include.

This was a mostly wholesome tale... Continue reading
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.
Kid, 11 years old January 31, 2011


Uses midevel language hard to understand boring

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its old-fashioned, British text, filled with long passages of description, dialects, advanced vocabulary, literary and historical references, and a very dry wit.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.

Talk to your kids 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

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