The Silver Swan

Overview

A boy on an isolated farm observes a lovely swan as she arrives on a moonlit lake. Day by day, the boy watches as she makes her home on the lake, finds a mate, builds a nest, and hatches five fluffy cygnets. When a starving fox threatens the swan and her brood, the boy desperately tries to protect his friend, but eventually he must comes to terms with the harsh—and, ultimately, the redemptive—aspects of nature.

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Overview

A boy on an isolated farm observes a lovely swan as she arrives on a moonlit lake. Day by day, the boy watches as she makes her home on the lake, finds a mate, builds a nest, and hatches five fluffy cygnets. When a starving fox threatens the swan and her brood, the boy desperately tries to protect his friend, but eventually he must comes to terms with the harsh—and, ultimately, the redemptive—aspects of nature.

The beautiful and touching prose of Michael Morpurgo and the richly textured, exquisite art of Christian Birmingham make this an unforgettable journey through the life cycle of a lake's wild creatures and a boy's coming of age.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Pooling their considerable talents once again, Morpurgo and Birmingham (previously teamed for Wombat Goes Walkabout) craft a superb picture book about a boy, a special swan and the sometimes cruel realities of nature. After a female swan arrives on a lake one moonlit night, a solitary farmboy who lives nearby befriends her, watching through the seasons as she finds a mate and starts a family. An unusually long winter leaves a family of foxes near starvation, however, and in the end the boy is helpless to save his beloved swan from an attack. "I knew the precise moment she died," he observes. "I knew it because she sang it." Morpurgo's sharp observations trace the cycles of the natural world with a bittersweet beauty, never anthropomorphizing the animals yet conveying a deep respect for the ways of their world. His words take wing with Birmingham's pastels. Plying light and shadow to echo the story's shifting moods, the artist blends and blurs colors in a series of breathtaking impressionistic images and unusual perspectives (the newly arrived male greeting the boy's swan is reflected in the boy's eyes; readers see only the boy's image on the surface of the water as he spies on the newborn cygnets swimming behind their mother). An awe-inspiring and poignant glimpse of nature's inner workings. Ages 4-8. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-Luminous illustrations accompany a gentle, lyrical first-person text recording a relationship between a farm boy and a female mute swan. Seeing her glimmering form in the moonlight, he calls her his "silver swan" and watches as she finds a mate and hatches a brood during the cold remnants of a bitter winter. Tragedy intrudes when a vixen, desperate to feed her starving cubs, fatally injures the pen. The boy keeps vigil as the grieving cob sinks into despair, and when a new pen appears, rejoices for the cob even while mourning his silver swan. Birmingham's winter-blue, soft-edged paintings are a perfect counterpoint to the quietly emotional text. Oddly, Morpurgo includes the mythical death song of the swan as an actuality, a jarring note in an otherwise realistic story. Team this, perhaps, with Jerry Pinkney's version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling (Morrow, 1999), the Grimms' The Six Swans (North-South, 1998), Brenda Seabrooke's The Swan's Gift (Candlewick, 1995), and Eve Bunting's Swan in Love (Atheneum, 2000) for a cygnine smorgasbord.-Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
One of the best-known English madrigals is "The Silver Swan," a haunting melody about a swan's dying song written in 1612 by Orlando Gibbons, and familiar to anyone who has spent much time in a choir robe. The piercing melancholy of this famous song permeates this sad and rather disturbing book, another example of the newer breed of picture books for adults masquerading as stories for children. A young, unnamed, and apparently motherless boy tells a wordy, first-person story of his fascination with a silver swan who swims in the pond on the boy's farm. The swan's mate arrives, cygnets arrive, the hungry fox arrives, and it's the bloody scene from every National Geographic wildlife TV special all over again. The boy is horrified at the cruel course of nature and hears the swan's dying song (mercifully offstage) before he finds a "terrible wreath of white feathers nearby." He expresses his anger at losing "his" silver swan, wanting to kill the fox, but then realizes that the fox is a mother with children to feed, too. In the last pages, the boy observes the bereaved male swan alone and languishing as soon as his babies are grown, until another female arrives at the pond to become the swan's new mate. It's hard to know who would choose this book, although its large, landscape-format illustrations in chalk pastels by Birmingham are undeniably exquisite. The story is too long, lyrical, and sad for preschoolers and the format of an oversized picture book is too young for older elementary students. It might possibly be comforting as a gift to someone who is bereaved, but the facile replacement of the swan's mate provides a "life goes on" message that might be cruel in itself. Perhaps it'sjustfor adult collectors of beautiful picture books, then, or for those who appreciate the pathos of a swan song. Despite beautiful art, a misguided attempt that fails to take flight. (Picture book. 7-9) Moss, Miriam THIS IS THE TREE Illus. by Adrienne Kennaway Kane/Miller (32 pp.) Sep. 2000
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803725430
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/1/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.75 (w) x 11.75 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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