Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
These three books make up the author's Young Merlin trilogy, imagining the childhood and coming-of-age of the famous wizard of Arthurian legend. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
In book one of the Young Merlin Trilogy, readers meet an eight-year-old boy who has been abandoned in the forest. He is surviving, but has turned feral. He watches a woodsman taming a young bird, and then he himself is caught by the falconer. As he begins to relearn speech, he loses his fear of the falconer and his dogs. When this short book ends, the boy reveals that his name is Merlin and our appetites are whetted for the next installment.
The ALAN Review - Ted Hipple
Where did Merlin come from? In this brief fantasy, the first of a projected trilogy, Yolen provides an answer: at eight years of age he was left by parents in a forest, to survive or not, a practice not uncommon in medieval England among families unable to provide for their children. This intelligent and creative youth did survive, eating berries and nuts, sleeping in trees to escape vicious dogs, being always on the watch. One day, he saw a man training a passager, an immature falcon; the man also saw the boy and later captured and began civilizing him, much as a falcon might be trained. The book ends with the boy receiving the name "Merlin," a term for a small falcon. Presumably the future books will deal with an older Merlin. Though beautifully written, Passager is interesting but not compelling reading. I'm doubtful whether it will have the widespread appeal Yolen usually gets and richly deserves.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-8-Eight-year-old Merlin lives alone in a medieval forest. Surviving on plants and fish and sleeping in trees to avoid wild dogs, he gradually forgets the habits and language of those who abandoned him. One day a man comes to the forest with a hunting hawk, and the fascinated boy follows him out of the woods to the first bed, bath, and bread he has seen in a year. Struggling against captivity at first, he is gradually won over by kindness. In a final electric moment, the man introduces him to his falcons, and readers share the youngster's shock of recognition when he is "...given back his own true name." There is no magic or fantasy in Yolen's stark, poignant, and absorbing tale. Readers feel the sun, rain, hunger, and fear as the child does, along with the intense curiosity and longing that lead him back to civilization. This "skinny" book will entice reluctant readers, but its rich language and poetic phrasing make it compelling and challenging. Some readers may not catch the similarities between the boy and the passager, but all will anxiously await the next volume in what promises to be an outstanding trilogy.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA