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Song of the Sparrow
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Song of the Sparrow

4.7 107
by Lisa Ann Sandell

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Since the days of King Arthur, there have been poems and paintings done in her name. She is the Lady of Shalott, and now there is a new story about her, from an exciting new talent.

The year is 490 AD. Fiery 16-year-old Elaine of Ascolat, the daughter of one of King Arthur's supporters, lives with her father on Arthur's base camp, the sole girl in a militaristic


Since the days of King Arthur, there have been poems and paintings done in her name. She is the Lady of Shalott, and now there is a new story about her, from an exciting new talent.

The year is 490 AD. Fiery 16-year-old Elaine of Ascolat, the daughter of one of King Arthur's supporters, lives with her father on Arthur's base camp, the sole girl in a militaristic world of men. Elaine's only girl companion is the mysterious Morgan, Arthur's older sister, but Elaine cannot tell Morgan her deepest secret: She is in love with Lancelot, Arthur's second-in-command. However, when yet another girl -- the lovely Gwynivere-- joins their world, Elaine is confronted with startling emotions of jealousy and rivalry. But can her love for Lancelot survive the birth of an empire?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Sandell (The Weight of the Sky) invents a unique and eloquently wrought addition to Arthurian lore in 44 verses expressing the sentiments of Lady Elaine, the subject of Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott" and other classical legends. Here, Elaine is cast as a motherless tomboy living in Arthur's encampment with her father and two brothers. Raised amidst soldiers who are like brothers to her, she knows little of what it means to be a woman until her passion is roused by handsome Lancelot. Any hope that Lancelot may some day return her love quickly dissolves with the arrival of beautiful Gwynivere, Arthur's future bride, who immediately steals Lancelot's heart. Elaine despises Gwynivere for her haughty and flirtatious manner ("A gown woven by faeries/ could not disguise her cruel nature," Elaine declares). Gwynivere conveys equal dislike for Elaine, but the two women form a bond in the throes of danger after they are kidnapped and held hostage by invading Saxons. The poetic narrative-a mix of observations, dialogue and laments-evokes a remarkable range (and natural progression) of emotions. Elaine's coming of age encompasses moments of adolescent infatuation, jealousy, grief and sacrifice and an evolution of friendship into mature love as she ultimately relinquishes her feelings for Lancelot and pledges her heart to Tristan. Characterized as unconventional for her time, Elaine encapsulates modern feminist values, proving herself to be as intelligent, determined and loyal as her male companions. Ages 12-up. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Bonnie Kunzel
This very different retelling of Arthurian legends is a poetic account of the battle against the Saxons that includes Arthur's agreement to marry Gwynivere in exchange for her father's support in battle. The Round Table is a fire pit with benches around it. The narrator is Elaine, a young Lady of Shalott, who has grown up in Arthur's camp after the death of her mother. She worships Lancelot, who befriended her as a young girl. But Gwynivere's arrival changes everything. Haughty and stuck up, she is not about to sully her hands by helping the only other girl, Elaine, with her mending or healing duties. Even worse, Lancelot is smitten with his future queen and responds with harsh words to the tenderhearted girl who worships him. Fortunately Tristan, still suffering over his lost love, starts as Elaine's friend and eventually replaces Lancelot in her affections. When Arthur and company leave camp to battle the Saxons, Elaine follows. Captured by Saxons at the end of a five-day march, it is Gwynivere who saves her life. She had followed Elaine and now shares her captivity, escapes to bring back help, and becomes a true friend to Elaine in the end, revealing her own feelings of helplessness and inadequacy at the arranged marriage foisted on her. The happy ending has only one flaw in Lancelot's continued obsession with Gwynivere, who is now determined to stand by her vows to Arthur. This girl-centered retelling is beautifully written and full of action, for fantasy and poetry fans alike.
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
Once more to the Arthurian Legend we go, as have thousands of others so many times in past centuries. This time the story centers on Elaine, the Lady of Shalott, made famous in modern times in the poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson in 1842. Sandell's Elaine is a young woman modern YAs will find intriguing: an independent, courageous beauty trying to find her way in a man's world. Sandell uses poetry to tell the story, and the brief lines propel the reader forward as the action and emotion build. Elaine, who legend portrays as a beautiful object, here narrates the story, telling of her responsibilities as healer and mender of the bodies and armor of the knights around her. She is friends with the young warriors: Lancelot, Tristan, Gawain, and even Arthur himself. She is there when Arthur is selected by Merlin to be the leader. Dreading their first offensive battle against the Saxon invaders, she takes action to help them and in so doing, risks her own life. Sandell's lyrical passages grip the reader as Elaine journeys through strange countryside alone, is kidnapped, escapes and devises a plan to help her warrior friends. Fear is a constant, of course, even in the midst of Elaine's bravery. Other emotions are present in Elaine's crush on Lancelot, and her despair when she sees he loves Gwynivere; and in Gwynivere's resentment at having no choice in being selected as Arthur's bride and her disdain for Elaine, who she sees as wild and common, allowed to run free with the warriors. Fortunately, Gwynivere herself is transformed by the events she and Elaine endure and the two form a strong friendship based on admiration and respect. An excellent modern take on an old story, sure to be pleasing toreaders, especially those who like the poetry format. The author's note helps to place Song of the Sparrow in the context of what is known about Arthur.
Children's Literature - Cassidy Barnette
After witnessing her mother's murder at the hands of the Saxons, Elaine, the Lady of Shallot, is transplanted in King Arthur's army campsite along with her brother Lavain to live with her father and older brother Tirry, who are soldiers in Arthur's army. As she matures from a young girl to a young woman, Elaine begins to realize that she is the only woman in a camp with hundreds of men. In fact, during much of the story, she struggles to find her identity as a woman in the male-dominated society in which she lives. Elaine becomes an asset to the army not only because she washes and mends the men's clothing but also because she tends to their battle wounds. Elaine begins to fall in love with one of her dear friends, Lancelot; however, after the arrival of another woman in the camp, Guinevere, Elaine realizes that Lancelot will never return her love because of his newfound love for Guinevere. Initially, Guinevere is anything but a comrade to Elaine, but when the Saxons capture them, a special bond of friendship develops. Bravely looking to save herself and her new friend, Elaine devises a plan for escape so that they can warn the Britons of the impending surprise attack from the Saxons. The author creates a compelling story by placing a strong, independent female character in the center of the Arthurian legend, which is traditionally dominated by strong male characters. Although the characters are not very complex, they are dynamic because through the course of the story, their beliefs and stereotypes change. Reviewer: Cassidy Barnette
Kirkus Reviews
In this Arthurian historical-romance, teenaged Elaine of Ascolat (best known as Tennyson's "Lady of Shalott") grows out of her accustomed role as war-camp mascot by saving Arthur's army from a Saxon ambush at Badon Hill, turning the hostile Gwynivere into a friend and finally getting over her own infatuation with Lancelot-hooking up with Tristan instead. By the end, she's even cut back on fretting about her looks. Sandell writes in seldom-elevated free verse, spurs the plot with trite devices-a never-identified British spy so-conveniently debriefs right outside the tent where Elaine and Gwynivere are being held captive by Saxons-then closes with a term-paperish rehash of the Arthurian Legend's history, and a reading list. Readers fond of tales about hunky, boyish men and the women who give their lives meaning may enjoy this reworking, but it's only empty calories next to Gerald Morris's far smarter and wittier takes. (Fiction. 12-15)

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Lisa Ann Sandell studies sculpture, is re-learning to play the trumpet, and, like Cora, has always found art and writing to be a driving force in her life. She is the author of THE WEIGHT OF THE SKY, which was named one of the New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen Age, and SONG OF THE SPARROW, which was a BookSense Summer 2007 pick and which Publishers Weekly called "unique and eloquently wrought" in a starred review. Lisa works as a children’s books editor and lives in New York City with her husband, the author Liel Leibovitz, and their dog, Molly. Please visit her online at www.lisaannsandell.com

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Song of the Sparrow 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 105 reviews.
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
Elaine of Ascolat could have been a lady with lovely dresses and finery. A lady who spent her days weaving like her mother in a tower room of their home on Shallot. But that home and her mother are gone. Instead Elaine lives with her father and brothers who fight in the Briton army under the young Arthur. The only girl in the camp, Elaine runs as wild and free as her brothers. She wishes the handsome knight Lancelot would see her as more than a child. She listens to Tristan's sweet songs. She mends the soldiers' clothes before each battle. She tends their wounds with herbs and poultices after. Although she has a home in this strange world of men and fighting, although she has hundreds of brothers, Elaine longs for a real place among the men as much as she wishes for female companionship. When another girl, Gwynivere, arrives at the camp Elaine is thrilled--until Gwynivere proves herself a cold and cruel companion. Spurned by Gwynivere, faced with an uncertain future as war looms, Elaine decides to make her own place in Arthur's camp and prove her worth to the soldiers--especially Lancelot. What starts as a simple plan soon turns into something more complicated and much more dangerous as Elaine has to struggle to protect everything--and everyone--she holds dear in Song of the Sparrow (2007) by Lisa Ann Sandell. Song of the Sparrow is a revisionist retelling of the legend of King Arthur. It is also a novel written in free verse. The Lady of Shalott, Elaine of Ascolat, has appeared in numerous retellings of Arthurian legend. Sandell has done something different here not only in giving Elaine a voice of her own but also in giving her agency in her own right. Song of the Sparrow is the story of before Arthur built Camelot--a prequel of sorts to the legends readers will know from movies and stories. Elaine is a winsome narrator with a captivating story that is exciting and moving. Beautifully written and elegantly told Song of the Sparrow is a delightfully re-imagined look at the time and world of King Arthur through a feminist lens. Highly recommended. Possible Pairings: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley, After the Kiss by Terra Elan McVoy, The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson
SeeMichelleRead More than 1 year ago
I'll admit it first thing: I was a King Arthur groupie. Summers were spent at Renaissance festivals, and one year my best friend and I even made medieval dresses for ourselves - and it wasn't even close to Halloween. So coming into this lovely, lovely book which retells the story of Elaine, the Lady of Shalott, I was more than excited. Then I opened the book and saw it was all in verse and I sort of did a little dance around the house. Okay, so it was a big happy dance. In this revised version of The Lady of Shaott, Elaine along with her brothers and father live in the soldiers camp under the direction of Arthur. She has become friend, sister and healer to the men but her only wish is that she could have more female friends. As war progresses, Elaine gets her wish when Lancelot, the love of her life, brings back Gwynivere to be Arthur's bride. But Lancelot is obviously in love with Gwyn and can only see Elaine as a young girl. To make matters worse, Gwyn is utterly beautiful and completely mean and nasty to Elaine. Which I thought was totally delicious change. Sandell may not have stayed completely true to Tennyson's original poem about Elaine, but this version was more filled with hope for the future. The cadence and smooth flow of events competely had me sucked in from the very beginning. Here's one of my favorite passages: "The warriors gather, but I am not welcome. Or so Lavaian tells me, hurling/ the words like rocks over his shoulder./ Stay here. The meeting is no place for a girl./ Leaving me here, alone,/ to wait and wonder./ What will become of us?" Just so dang great. seemichelleread.blogspot.com
QueenRose More than 1 year ago
I love this book. Its about a girl Elain who is in love with Lancelot. Then when Gywnivere shows up Lancelot and Gywnivere fall in love. And Elain and Gywnivere don't get along at first. But when they end up in danger they have to put away thier differences forget that they're both in love with Lancelot and work together. I wanted to kick Lancelot because in one part he is upset that Gywenivere is engaged to Arthur and Elain says he can have her. Lancelot was like why would I want you. But then in the end Elain realizes that she is in love with another knight and that she thought she was in love with Lancelot but she was only attracted to his looks. The real legend was not as happy as this. I recommend this book to people who love reading about knights, romance,and King Arthur.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I actually found this book by accident at our school's annual book fair. One of my friends saw it and read the back and told me this sounded like a book I would like. So a skimmed the first couple pages and decided I need a new book to read, this one sounds good... so I bought it. I love the Medieval era and I just finished a report on the legend of King Arthur. This is one of the only books, that I have read in a long while, that I simply could not put down. When reading you feel, or a least I felt, like Elaine. When she struggles you struggle, when Elaine see that teasing charm in the eyes of some one she cares about, you see it too. This book was rich in detail and it has definitely left me wanting to read it again, and again. I recommend it to anyone who loves the medieval times and a good romance.
SpartanReading More than 1 year ago
I gave the book The song of the Sparrow 5 stars because it truly deserved it this book was great,I couldn't stop reading,i loved the book from start to finish, the twist and turns kept me reading and i just kept wanting to know what will happen.This book is about a 16 year old girl named Elaine whose mother was murdered by a Pict warrior, her family's house was burned to ashes on their island of Shalott, and she now lives with her two brothers, Lavain and Tirry, and her father in an army encampment for Briton, this "camp is now there home and Elaine plays a big part to keep everyone alive she heals soldiers with her medicine and leafs.One day a lovely girl Gwynivere comes to camp to be the leader King Arthur's wife, Elaine is much jealous and she notices that Lancelot the one she secretly loves has an eye for Gwynivere.While most men were captivated by her looks Elaine did not like her at all and when she got to know Gwynivere she was terrible,rude and nasty she never listened to Elaine and never helped around.One day Elaine is caught by a current and the only one around is Gwynivere.Will Gwynivere save her?Will Lancelot love her back or will there be a new man involved?read the book and find out! I would recommend this story to many people who LOVE romance but also have a hint for betrail and adventure you would love how Elaine battles with her enemy Gwynvivere and all the drama between the her love life and the man she has to pick to love.So come on, get up and read this book i know you will love it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lisa Ann Sandell's captivating story about a girl's first step into womanhood is magnificently written and will plunge readers into the everyday life of a motherless young lady who lives in a camp filled with 500 plus men. Song of the Sparrow is about Elaine of Shallott and how she found her place as a respected friend and advisor in a setting filled with war, fear, and lonliness. Saturated with battle scenes described from a woman's point of view, I reccomend it to anyone who enjoys a good book to curl under the covers with.
GreekCowgirl More than 1 year ago
This is a story about love, true love and bravery, this will pull at your heartstrings and have you on the edge of your seat the entire time!!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this whole book in three hours!!! Thats 283 pages!!! I LOVED IT!!! IT WAS AMAZING!!!! I HIGHLY HIGHLY HLIGHLY recoimend it!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an extremely great book. I read it in less than a day and it had almost 300 pgs given that it is written in stanza form (like a poem) It's amazing though. If you are into King Arthur and all that, but want a girl to be the hero then you should definitely read this or if you just an adventerous story with a little romance spun in there then this is also the book for you. Trust me it's great, a must read.
iluvdeadis More than 1 year ago
This was a very good book. I read it twice and loved every moment of it. The was Lisa Ann Sandell wrote the book caught my attention with the wonderful literature and meaning of the book. I hope her next book is even better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
this book was amazing. the storyline in smooth,and exciting. i read this last year, it was so good, i just had to read it again. i would recommend this to teens and young adults, because of some strong violence. all aound this is wonderful book
ertf More than 1 year ago
I opened this book and saw it was written in verse and thought "maybe this one is not for me" but was hooked within the first few pages. Sandell writes a very human story of love, trust, and coming of age. It was a beautiful read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Kat160 More than 1 year ago
This book was intelligently written. I can believe how good it was. After I brought it to school everyone at my school begged me to read it. Song of the Sparrow sadly now is almost ripped up by all the people who have read it. They all loved it. The story made me cry and feel sorry for Elaine. But the ending was so good. Peace
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Little-Dhampir More than 1 year ago
Kept me busy but it didn't grab me like others have.