Monday, April 16, 2012

Excalibur: The Legend of King Arthur by Tony Lee & Sam Hart


IT ALL BEGAN WITH A PROPHECY.  A prophecy made by a famous sorcerer that one day, the REAL king will come back to rule Albion – that King Arthur would return to his rightful place at the throne by overthrowing the evil King Ulric, who betrayed Arthur’s father, King Uther, and took the throne.  But, this could only happen if the REAL Arthur could pull his father’s sword from the stone…  

The graphic novel, Excalibur: The Legend of King Arthur, compiles many of the tales of King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, The Holy Grail, Guinevere, The Lady of Lake, Morgana, Gawain and The Green Knight, Lancelot, and the utopia Avalon into a cohesive tale of King Arthur’s journey to his crown and several challenges he encounters after being crowned king.  After having his true identity hidden for many years, Arthur’s true identity is tested when a battle breaks out and the Sword in the Stone is needed to defeat the current King, Uther.  With the help of his father’s trusted sorcerer, Merlin, Arthur gains the training he needs to be a proper King.  He has a beautiful wife, but married life is not always as happy as it appears, even in Camelot.  The folklore tale concludes as legend has incited, with an epic battle between Arthur and his half sister Morgana. 

This graphic novel easily invites readers to turn the page to more colorful drawings and drama.  The action is easy to understand, with any confusion about plot being resolved through the skillfully drawn characters and environment.  The novel is a great introduction for young students to the legend of King Arthur and all of the tales that have been spun off of Arthur.  Students familiar with some of the stories will easily recognize how the author is weaving a lot of the various folklore stories into one, and for those students who are not familiar with the legend of King Arthur, it is a great summary of many of the tales into one, although, it can be confusing with all of the characters who are introduced and readers might have to go back to refresh themselves on each character and their relationships.

Teens reading the novel will be able to gain an appreciation for the legend that is King Arthur but they will also be able to relate to the struggles that a young person has to go through to grow up quickly to rule a kingdom.  The book can engage students in a discussion regarding whether they have ever had to grow up faster than they thought, or how many young people today are facing issues at their age that in the past, were not typically dealt with at such young of an age (helping their single parents, being a parent themselves, or having to get a job while attending school).  Students could relate to whether they feel prepared or not for the next steps in their lives, or if they have ever struggled with identity issues like Arthur.  Connections could be made to why wars are fought or the differences between running a country with a monarchical governing body or a democratic governing body.  As an educational tool, if possible within the district, teachers could have students read this text while in middle school or the first year in high school, and then when at the upper high school level, when students are engaged in more difficult texts, teachers could introduce other Arthurian legend stories and students will already have background knowledge from this novel to help propel them forward with more information and connections on the topic.  Or, this would be fun way to quickly introduce high school students to Arthurian legend before starting a unit on it.  Students could compare and contrast what they currently know to the graphic novel, or after reading more texts on the Arthurian legend, identify all of the stories that are woven into one with Excalibur.  

3 comments:

Sarah Rau said...

Wow, this novel really sounds like it really grabs your attention. Also seems to have a ton of different facets to it. You did a great job highlighting all these various ways students could discuss, relate to and learn from. I'd fall into the category of people that don't know much about the legend of King Arthur. Your review though makes me much more curious to find out. Seems like this book would be a perfect "one-stop-shop" to learn these King Arthur tales. And also, on a side note, I thoroughly enjoyed your linked Sword in the Stone clip--one of my childhood faves!

Demitra said...

I could definitely see this graphic novel being used in a high school classroom in conjunction with a British mythology/history tales unit in an English class. I know that my Junior Year was my British Literature year and we did read some class Arthurian legends as part of the syllabus. Integrating something like this graphic novel could have helped keep interest high and maybe even sparked some discussion of how legends morph and change over time or a discussion of how the oral tradition is different from seeing the story illustrated and in print. Anyway, great review, and as Sarah mentioned loved the Sword in the Stone link! (That is actually the first thing that always comes to my mind when I think of King Arthur.)

cstephens said...

I have actually worked on lesson plans for The Once and Future King, and briefly looked at this graphic novel online. I am happy to hear that this will be good supplimental material if I ever have the opportunity to teach the legends of King Arthur. My worry has always been whether studens would be able to make connections to a medieval king and make it through the dense writing of T. H. White. Having a text like this that is easy to follow would be invaluable.