“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, September 22, 2008

Arthur of Albion • Illustrated Young Reader

Arthur of Albion
by John Matthews • Illustrated by Pavel Tatarnikov

October 2008 • Barefoot Books • Illustrated Young Reader
"A king shall come who shall rule over these lands and as far afield as Rome herself, and his name shall be Arthur."
Story: Compiled by world-renowned Arthurian expert John Matthews, this Barefoot anthology is a comprehensive collection of the many legends that make up the realm of King Arthur. Stories include: The Boy Who Became King, The Ladies of the Lake: How King Arthur Came by the Sword Excalibur, Merlin the Wise, Knights, Their Horses, Weapons, and Armor: The Adventures of Sir Lancelot, The Grail, and more. Includes removable, fold-out map of Albion.
Story behind the story: There are many of us who know and love the tales that make up Arthurian Legend, but not necessarily how they are all related. Barefoot Books co-founder, Tessa Strickland, is amongst those for whom the threads connecting each story remained hidden. So, she asked good friend, Barefoot Books author, librarian, and Arthurian scholar John Matthews if he would compile a collection of the more renowned tales, revealing the weave that binds them. John was more than happy to comply and, along with the mystical, Klimt-like art of first-time Barefoot illustrator Pavel Tatarnikov, we have what is sure to be a definitive Arthurian anthology for young and old alike.
FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; just click on the "comments" link below to read what your colleagues have to say about it -- more in the works, too!


Deborah Muldawer said...

Arthur of Albion by John Matthews and Pavel Tatarnnikov summarizes the best known tales of King Arthur in, for the most part, easy-to-understand language, appropriate for older elementary or younger middle school students.
Despite beautiful illustrations with a haunting and mystical quality, the book is not primarily a picture book. In fact, some of the vocabulary is quite advanced. The harder words are interspersed throughout and can be deciphered with context clues.
One way in which Arthur of Albion differs from other King Arthur collections is in its breadth of information. However, I found the manner in which this was done off-putting.
Between each story are a few pages of information. This information shares none of the lyrical ease of the main tales, but instead reads like a dry textbook. After a while, the names and places start to blur together and when there are later references to this information, it's almost impossible to relocate the original source.
A better choice of format, I believe, would be to either have the information as sidebars during the story or create an alphabetical glossary at the end. Asterisks by key points in the story could direct the reader to this glossary and the additional information it provides.
Ideally, I'd like to see the sidebars written as complete stories. The stories in the collection are charming and well written. Why not add to the reader's pleasure?
I'd recommend Arthur of Albion for elementary and middle school libraries. Just be aware that some readers may skip over the dry filler to get to the meatier stories.

Picnic Basket Rating: 3

Jennifer said...

Rating: 3, from a public librarian

This is a big and beautiful book. I can’t help but think it’s the kind of thing grandparents are going to be giving as a gift and kids are going to be hopelessly bored by. Unless it finds the right kid to be completely enchanted by it.

It’s almost an encyclopedia of Arthurian stories, with brief descriptions of people, places and objects and then a retelling of one of the related stories. Those stories are what might capture children. And the illustrations really are gorgeous, especially Tatarnikov’s Klimtian women.

I imagine this will be most interesting to kids who have already read something about King Arthur and want to know more, or that it would make for good bedtime reading. It’s something to enjoy in bite-sized pieces. There is a lot of fighting and beheading and dead knights, but nothing gory or gruesome. I love Arthurian legend, and will definitely be trying to push it on my theoretical and unborn children. I’ll be happy to have this age-appropriate book to add to that shelf.

mary said...

Arthur of Albion is a beautifully illustrated book collection of stories told about the legendary King Arthur. His life is depicted describing his lineage, his childhood, his reign over the Knights of the Round Table. In addition some of the legendary stories included concern mythical creatures, Camelot, Merlin, the knights, the ladies of the court, the Holy Grail, and magic, of course. This wonderful composite of stories will be an exciting collection for readers, especially in grades five and six, who are interested in reading and experiencing life in medieval times told through legends. Also included in this book is a map and poster that outlines ancient Albion showing the many places that King Arthur and the knights possibly traveled. The site of Tintagel in Cornwall, England, would be a link to studying these stories and the possible location of King Arthur’s castle and the round table. Other links might be medieval castles and times. Altogether this story is very satisfying to read and explore. The fifth graders at our school seem to enjoy the book talk on this book and went immediately to search Tintagel. The boys, especially, seemed to want more of these stories of adventure and legend. Their teachers felt that the descriptive language used in the text could extend to their creative writing assignments.

Ellen said...

Arthur of Albion is a beautiful book. The pictures are gorgeous and gives the book the feel of a coffee table book.
I was so excited to get this book in the mail; unfortunately, I was disappointed when I read it. The book is quite informative, but the format is not overly user friendly and the vocabulary is not entirely appropriate for late elementary, early middle school students.
Some students who are in love with this era will work to get through the text, but I cannot see most young people working that hard.
The headings typeface could be confusing to young people.
The breadth of knowledge it brings is good and the poster is something I see students finding as very fun.
I teach Children's Literature and will tell my students about this book - both the positives and the negatives.
Rating: 3

Nan Hoekstra said...

Barefoot Book's promise of celebrating art and story is certainly delivered in Arthur of Albion. The details of the green sword on the title page and the Content page's bird's eye view of the castle and village are mesmerizing. I was transfixed by the subtleties of the art. Utterly. As I read the text I began to read aloud - my sixteen year old son stopped what he was doing - eating! - and listened intently. The phrasing and paragraph structure is so fine and respectful of the tale and the listener - a wonderful read aloud for all ages! The development of the material and the wisely measured and sorted topics and tales make this volume a treasure. Yes, this could be an introduction or the heart of several different units -- History and Lore, Legends and Dreams, Ah! the world of Arthur made accessible (to newcomers especially?). I am certainly in that category so this was, for me, a great introduction to the all of Arthur. Irresistable both for content and beauty of presentation. This is a cross-curricular gem - history, art, folklore, geography and social traditions. It invites to further reading and exploration. I work as a youth services librarian in the public library system in Minnesota. I think this book will be enjoyed by all who find it -- parents may enjoy it especially as a read-aloud treat to upper elementary/middle school reluctant readers. 4 Picnic Basket Stars and yes! this could be a picnic theme.

RistauReadslibrary2 said...

When I opened the envelope Arthur of Albion was sent in I was immediately impressed with the beauty of the book. The illustrations are beautiful and set the feel of mysticism and magic. Having no prior knowledge about King Arthur myself I was enchanted by this book and enjoyed reading the stories. However, the language in this book is much too advanced for my upper elementary students, and I really feel that the middle school students might get more out of it. As someone else commented in their review, this book is gorgeous, but might be better as a coffee table book.
Rating - 3

Mary Kirk said...

I know a guy in his 40s who went into the woods, captured a falcon, tamed it, and trained it to hunt. He did this because as he was growing up he loved reading about knights and falconry and King Arthur. Arthur of Albion is a book that will whet the interest of today’s children in Arthurian legends. It is a good introduction to the rich world of literature covering King Arthur and his knights.
Arthur of Albion is a beautiful book from the cover art to the map of the Realm of Albion on the last page. Elementary-aged students will be drawn to the book for the pictures. The text is difficult. Many elementary school students will not wade through the book by themselves. Imagine, though, a teacher reading aloud one chapter each day and discussing it with the class. Then imagine that teacher talking with the media coordinator, who would pull fiction and nonfiction about King Arthur and the Middle Ages. That same media coordinator would point the students to the public library catalog, where they would be able to find much more to read about King Arthur and his knights.
I searched the catalog of the public library in my midsized city. I found 238 titles under the keywords “King Arthur.” I found 482 titles under the keyword “knights” and 129 titles under “Merlin.” An interested student—maybe even a reluctant boy reader— could read and read and read.
Two of the fifth-grade classes in my elementary school do a unit on the Middle Ages. I am looking forward to putting the book Arthur of Albion in those teachers’ hands, along with the suggestion that they use it as a read-aloud. The chapters are short, which is perfect for today’s busy classroom, where students hardly have time to pause and digest new information before rushing on to the next subject.
The Further Reading List at the back of the book is the kind of thing I always welcome. Of the 13 titles included in the list, my public library has five. Four of the 13 titles are for readers between the ages of nine and 12. Perhaps the reading list has teachers and parents in mind, as well as young readers. I plan to purchase the titles that are for readers between the ages of nine and 12 for my media center.
All in all, I rate Arthur of Albion a resounding four. Yummy!

Mary Kirk
Media Coordinator
Sherwood Forest Elementary School
Winston-Salem, NC

Lisa S said...

This is a gorgeous book, inside and out. The text in the book is intense, but as a read aloud or an informational text, it is really beneficial.
Arthurian stories are interesting to my students this year, so it was a huge success!
The was a fun read for us, the students in my sixth grade class were shocked with some of Arthur's trials and tribulations.
As a classroom book, I would give it a picnic basket 5. As an independent read, it may be taxing for some students, so maybe a 3 if they are going to read it on their own.

Allyn said...

Arthur of Albion is one of the most beautiful books I have had the pleasure of holding. The illustrations are simply exquisite and historically correct. I have to agree with the other reviewers that the text is a bit dry for independent reading and I can see some students putting it down and not returning to it because of the text and vocabulary. However, this book will be great for short teacher read alouds and if a teacher is lucky enough to have an "Elmo" projector, can project the images at the same time.

Picnic Basket Rating: 3

A. Hunt
8th Grade Language Arts Teacher

Tasses said...

The back cover of Arthur of Albion says that the publisher, Barefoot Books, celebrates art & story. This couldn’t be truer. Arthur of Albion by John Matthews and illustrated by Pavel Tatarnikov is lavish and gilded, putting one in the perfect mood to travel back to Arthurian times. Though it is the size of a picture book, it’s really filled with stories of quests and magic, chivalry and wonder.

The author has condensed the traditional Arthurian legends into smaller snippets for a quick introduction to Arthur Pendragon. The stories are short enough to hold student interest, yet long enough to provide the essentials. Though Arthur of Albion would work well as an elementary read aloud, I feel its best audience is the middle school set. The vocabulary is just challenging enough for reading enhancement, the stories just long enough to pique interest. It would also work well as a supplemental material for various units of study (ie: medieval histories and romances, ancient British history, folklore & Arthur himself).

Recommended to enhance unit supplementals, for read alouds and for those with an interest in knights or the Arthurian legends.

Reading Specialist
The Wild Rumpus Starts

Susan Mello said...

I received and read Arthur of Albion. I also think the book is beautiful. But beautiful does not equal functional. I wonder (worry) who will use this book. At first, upper elementary because of the picture book format. I revised this though after reading the subject matter. It may be more appropriate for early middle school students(grade5-6). A reader must have a strong interest in the subject of King Arthur simply to pick up the book. I don't think the language or picture-book structure could entice any older readers. Other than adults who still appreciate the artistic creativity that went into making this book.
There is no doubt in my mind that the author knows the subject matter well. My hope as a librarian is to guide appropriate readers towards this book to inform and enhance interest.

Picnic Basket Rating: 4

Debbie said...

Long live King Arthur! He has always been a fascinating historical figure and this title will just increase that wonder by those who read it. The pictures are gorgeous. The stories flow off the tongue and into the heart. Anyone who loves the Arthurian tales will love this book. Anyone who hears the stories will fall in love with King Arthur. Put this into the hands of the right reader, like my grandson, and watch their eyes light up. Boys love facts and will love showing off their knowledge of Tristan's Dragon or Merlin. Place the map up on display along with books about Arthur, castles, and knights. This will make children, young and old, very happy. 5 picnic baskets!

Anonymous said...

As many reviewers have already said, the artfulness with which this book is put together is striking. The cloth binding and haunting illustrations make me want to pick the book up and leaf through it.
I like the pairing of the informational text with the stories. One quibble I have is that the font used for the informational text, a flowing cursive, will be hard for some readers to decipher. The stories are written in an easy to read font.
The illustrated map of The Realm of Albion is beautiful, and yet another way to draw readers into the stories. A well done book which deserveS A 5 star rating.

Susan O'Connell
School Librarian
Woodbury Community Library

Sonia said...

Arthur of Albion is a treasure that every library should acquire. John Matthews portrays the legend of King Arthur in such beautiful language that you can't help but start to read it aloud. The illustrations, reminiscent of days' of old illuminated manuscripts, are a sight to behold. They held my two sons captivated. Pavel Tatarkinov is an illustrator of the highest order. The stories, which include Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Ladies of the Lake, Merlin the Wise, and even Magical Creatures, are sure to hold an older reader's attention. The poster at the back of the book is a plus. Definately a 5!

Sonia Acone
Assistant Librarian
Susquehanna Community Elementary School

Mrs. Kondrick said...

“This book is so good, I don’t know where to start” I told my son. He said “That is how you should start your review.” So I have. Arthur of Albion is a treasure everyone should own. As others have already stated Pavel Tatarnikov’s illustrations are hauntingly beautiful. As a fan of Arthur tales I really enjoyed the introductions before each tale. I learned a lot as well as recalled prior knowledge. I know many of my students have heard or watched tidbits of these tales. This book will be an excellent introduction to an Arthur unit. The moment you start to read it you will feel the need to read it aloud. Reading it aloud will alleviate the only complaint I have. The Font used for the subtitles in the introduction makes it a little hard to read. I used the body of this section to decipher the capital letters. Overall I would still give this book a 5, I think I will reread it as a bedtime story for myself tonight!

Karen Kondrick
Literacy Coach
Ripley Central School
Ripley, NY