Summer Reading. If students knew that some of their teachers were already hard at work on their summer reading lists, well, I can just hear the groans. When I was in school, I wasn’t one of the groaners. In fact, I couldn’t wait to see what was going to be on the list. And now I get to help the local schools decide.
The middle school librarian asked me if I could suggest any novels in verse; I immediately rattled off a few, mentioning that there were others I could read to see if they fit the criteria. One of those was Lisa Ann Sandell’s Song of the Sparrow.
Since the days of King Arthur, there have been paintings and poems created in her name. She Elaine of Ascolat – the Lady of Shalott. And now, there is a new story, a new vision, of this mysterious and captivating girl…
I had always wanted to read this one, and while I didn’t need the excuse, it certainly bumped it up on the priority list.
The Arthurian legend fascinated me even as a little girl. I think it stemmed from the fact that my father’s name is Arthur and, yeah, he would often play on that fact when he was telling me stories. Since then I’ve read several novels that either reimagine or adapt Arthur and his knights, but, strangely, the only one I can recall mentioning Elaine was Meg Cabot’s Avalon High. I knew her story, though, and was delighted by Sandell’s “new vision.”
When we meet Elaine, she’s spent years alongside her father and brothers in Arthur’s war camp. She’s grown up among the men, condsidering them friends and brothers, helping in whatever way she could: mending, gathering medicinal plants. And there is one knight in particular that makes her heart flutter like a sparrow’s wings: Lancelot.
Sandell’s Elaine is a strong young woman, smart and compassionate. Her narrative is beautifully observant and compelling. I cared a great deal for her in this telling, and her presence seemed to illuminate the greater myth. Knowing how Elaine’s story played out, the resolution of Song of the Sparrow turned out to be a wonderful surprise.
I had just finished the book when I emailed the middle school librarian, urging her to put this one on the list. I can see so many students getting caught up in Elaine’s story. This was a gem, this one.