Queen Guinevere and Other Stories from the Court of King Arthur by Mary Hoffman and Christina Balit
|Queen Guinevere and Other Stories from the Court of King Arthur by Mary Hoffman and Christina Balit|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Stunning illustrations and dramatic stories, if a little difficult to pitch for the right age reader.|
|Buy? yes||Borrow? yes|
|Pages: 72||Date: November 2015|
|Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
I always enjoy a story with a feisty heroine, so the prospect of a whole collection of stories telling me about the women behind the men in the Arthurian legends definitely had an appeal to me! Taking Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur for inspiration, as well as other historical texts depicting the legends, Hoffman tells us her imagining of what it was like to be married to Arthur, the other women connected to Lancelot and Sir Gawain, and ultimately why the fellowship of the round table really fell apart.
Although this is a children's book, I found it an interesting read myself as although I was aware of Morgan le Fay and Guinevere I had never heard of the other women such as Igrayne and Ragnell. The stories are intriguing, giving an alternative point of view to some very famous stories. I think my favourite was one about Ragnell who finds herself with a witch as a stepmother. The stepmother is jealous of Ragnell's beauty and so she casts a spell over her, making her ugly. Ragnell cleverly manages to trick Sir Gawain into marrying her, in spite of her appearance, and it turns out that by his kindness the spell is broken, and Ragnell becomes beautiful again. It's a well-told story, with a happy ending!
Other stories in the book end in a much more tragic manner, with women (and men) stuck in love-less marriages, or tricked into sleeping with someone other than their spouse. It's for this reason that I found it difficult to guess at what age-range the book is pitched at. From merely looking at the beautiful illustrations and the length of the stories you'd probably say it would be best for those 8 years and over, but the language is quite advanced, and the content is, I felt, a little too grown up for younger children. You can use your own judgment, obviously, but it's probably better for those over 11, or perhaps even older.
I loved the illustrations which are both colourful and powerful. The women all look unique, with swirling hair and beautifully patterned clothing. There's one particularly gorgeous picture of Elaine and Lancelot that is just lovely to look at, and the picture of Guinevere ready to be burned at the stake is also very dramatic. The arrangement of the illustrations works well, with either a full page picture alongside the text, or smaller side panels along the edge of the text. There is also a family tree at the start of the book, just in case all of the relationships get to be too confusing!
Aside from the issues over content, my only other quibble with this book comes in the introduction where we are told that we will be reading about many different kinds of women but that these weren't just stay-at-homes. Although I understand the need to make the lives of these women sound exciting I felt it to be rather derogatory to those of us who are stay at home mums, and although this may just be over-sensitivity on my part, I think a more careful wording would have been better! Still, it is good to have some strong and feisty women to read about, even if a lot of them weren't very nice! The stories are well told, and full of magic and adventure and exciting events. Check you're happy with the content, and then let your kids delve into the world of women behind King Arthur.
Further reading suggestion: You might also enjoy reading King Arthur and a World of Other Stories by Geraldine McCaughrean or you might wish to take a look at the classic Arthurian story The Sword in the Stone by T H White.
You can read more book reviews or buy Queen Guinevere and Other Stories from the Court of King Arthur by Mary Hoffman and Christina Balit at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Queen Guinevere and Other Stories from the Court of King Arthur by Mary Hoffman and Christina Balit at Amazon.com.
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