I just finished reading E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan yesterday during our lunchtime read-aloud session. I have a very faint memory of owning this book when I was a child, but that’s it. This book really surprised me: both the girls and I enjoyed it immensely. (Why am I surprised by this? It is E.B. White, after all.) For those who are unfamiliar with this well-known tale, it is the story of Louis the Trumpeter Swan who was born unable to make a sound. With the help of a nature-loving boy named Sam Beaver, Louis works around his handicap and learns to read and write in order to communicate. This is all well and good for communicating with humans, of course, but not for communicating with other swans, especially those of the female gender. Louis’ father then takes matters into his own hands (wings?) and procures a trumpet for Louis, and after this, Louis becomes a famous and wealthy swan. Louis does what he sets out to do in the end, though, and returns to the wild with his true love, Serena, and their growing family.
This story is told in E.B. White’s trademark style that still chokes me up (to the amazement and confusion of my girls). Although it’s not a three-hanky book like Charlotte’s Web, there is something about White’s description of nature in this story that just gets me right in the heart. The character Sam Beaver, a quiet and observant boy who keeps a journal and thinks of one question to ponder over before going to sleep each night, provides a perfect inroad to the animal world. This is a fantastical story of talking animals, but parts of it (particularly the descriptions of the natural world) are firmly rooted in reality. Although it is a long story of just about 250 pages, Lulu (age 5) and Louise (age 3 3/4) both listened eagerly and patiently and even asked for another chapter just about every time we stopped reading. The grin on Lulu’s face when we finished it was so sweet–priceless!
The thing I enjoyed most about sharing this book with my girls was the identification they had with Louis as he learned to play his trumpet. Both girls have taken music since they were younger than two years old, and Lulu graduated to a group piano class in the spring. The class is based on solfege singing (“do re me” singing), so when I read the solfege for the song Louis was playing, their faces lit up. It was perfect!
This is the third E.B. White book we’ve read, and while I would never say that this one is better than Charlotte’s Web, I think it is a close second to us. The language is a little simpler in this one than it is in Stuart Little, so it is more accessible to younger children. The Trumpet of the Swan gets a definite Highly Recommended!
Have a happy Read Aloud Thursday!