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The Sword in the Stone

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

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 8 reviews

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
Parent Written byRachel E. July 29, 2012

Thick reading, Worth it for a good listener

My son just turned 8 and enjoyed this book, even though I had to explain a lot of things in it to him. Also, it is a more challenging read out loud than to one... Continue reading
Parent of a 12 year old Written byLisette's Mom January 13, 2013

I Loved This Book As A Teen!

I read this work by T.H. White in English class in 10th grade, 30 years ago (edition did not have the illustrations referred to above). It triggered in me a lov... 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.
Teen, 13 years old Written byavidcritc April 9, 2008

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... Continue reading

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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