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Children's LiteratureTennyson's poem, first published in 1832, marked the beginning of his fascination with the Arthurian legends and his vast influence on writers and painters of the Victorian era. Inspired by a 14th-century Italian novella, The Lady of Shalott is distinguished by its luxurious images, its skillful use of rhyme, and its rhythmic, almost hypnotic repetition of the words "Shalott" and "Camelot." Critics have speculated that the poet was commenting on the circumscribed lives of women of his day, or perhaps on the fate of the isolated artist, or even on the passage from life to death. Canadian artist Cote has used wispy, crayon-like lines, sky blues and warm browns to delineate the maiden and the sights she glimpses in her mirror, with stark black dramatizing Lancelot's appearance, the cracking of the mirror, and the dark river on which the lady floats in a sort of chrysalis, freed as a butterfly by death. What can it mean to young adults of today? Knights wearing leather coats and driving Edwardian motorcars may spark discussion on the relevance of the poem to Tennyson's own time; sinister reapers in sunglasses and the casual acceptance of the lady's death may suggest a link with ours. For the connection with women, artists, and death, interested teens might like to read A Circle of Sisters by Judith Flanders and look at some Pre-Raphaelite depictions of Arthurian characters. Or they might want just to enjoy its elegant and ethereal evocation of temps passe, whether Arthur's or Tennyson's. 2005, KCP Poetry/Kids Can, Ages 13 up.
—Barbara L. Talcroft