Author: Cheryl Carpinello
Year published: 2009
Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc.
Number of pages: 122
Recommended age: 8+
Daughter Rating: ★★★★½
Grown-up Rating: ★★★★½
Reviewed by: Renee and Danielle (Mother and Daughter)
Summary (from Amazon):
**Finalist Pre-Teen Literature: Dan Poynter’s 2011 Global Ebook Awards.**
At the dawn of Camelot, one young girl is about to take her place beside the greatest king in England’s history.
She is a mere child of twelve. But in these medieval days, this is the age when childish things must be put away and greater responsibilities accepted–all in preparation for a betrothal of marriage.
For young Lady Guinevere, on the advent of her thirteenth Birth Day, the whole idea is quite unbearable. After all, what could be better than spending her youth playing with her best friend Cedwyn, roaming the grounds around the castle looking for mythical creatures or hunting rabbits?
However, the wizard Merlyn–her teacher and friend–knows that destiny has a way of catching up with a person. His arrival sets in motion a series of events that will lead Guinevere to her destiny whether she is ready for it or not.
What it’s about: This book is about a girl named Guinevere who is about to turn 13 and then she has to decide if she will marry King Arthur. And she and her friend Cedwyn go on lots of adventures.
What I liked and disliked about it: I liked how, in the story, there was a twelve year girl playing with a seven year old boy because it shows that you can be friends with anyone and it doesn’t matter their gender or age. So, I liked the relationship between Guinevere and her friend Cedwyn and I liked how Cedwyn said “Guin’ver” – it was cute.
It was interesting to read how people in those times lived. It was weird that in medieval times, girls would get married so young. I wouldn’t want to get married so young [Mom: thank you, thank you, thank you!!].
I liked that there was magic in the book with Merlyn the wizard, the unicorns, and the dragon. I thought the story of the unicorns was sad because they have to die to save humans, but I understood (after my Mom explained it to me) that meeting the unicorn helped Guinevere decide that she has to meet her responsibilities as Lady of the kingdom and marry King Arthur.
I liked the pictures inside the book, but in some of the pictures she looks like she’s seven not twelve/thirteen.
I didn’t like that at the end in the section called “King Arthur Legend” it said that Merlyn was imprisoned by a lady named Nimue. It felt like a bad ending to the story and it made me sad.
My bottom line: I loved, loved this book and I would recommend it to girls and maybe boys 8 years and older.
What it’s about: We are introduced to young Guinevere of Arthurian legend, on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, when she is expected to take her rightful place as Lady of the kingdom. But the motherless Guinevere we meet is a spirited adventure-seeker and she feels conflicted about her new role and the expectations placed on her by her father, King Leodegrance, who has an even bigger surprise in store for her.
What I liked and disliked about it: While much of Arthurian legend focuses on the adult characters of King Arthur, Merlyn, Guinevere, Sir Lancelot, and the other knights of the round table, Cheryl Carpinello brings to life the story of Guinevere as a young girl prior to her role in the legendary love triangle involving herself, King Arthur, and Sir Lancelot. I love how Guinevere is depicted as strong and loyal yet contemplative. The reader is privy to Guinevere’s inner thoughts and turmoil concerning her decision to abandon her childish ways and embrace her responsibilities as daughter of a king and spokesperson and protector of her people. I thought she was an excellent role model for tween and teenage girls alike.
Carpinello introduces elements of legend and magic as a metaphor for the position that Guinevere finds herself in. When Guinevere follows a shadowy figure into the forest near the castle, she encounters a rarely sighted unicorn and learns of the purpose and fate of its kind. The plight of the unicorn, as well as the story of the red deer, touches Guinevere deeply and helps her to understand and accept her own destiny which was laid out for her at birth. Carpinello weaves these elements within the story so beautifully and lays the foundation for the lessons learned by Guinevere (and the reader!). That being said, some of these more complex nuances may be harder to grasp for younger children, although I think that younger children (like my son) would still enjoy the story.
At the end of the book, there are many “added” features such as a short Epilogue which ties this story to the more popular and well-known part of Arthurian legend occurring after the wedding of King Arthur and Guinevere. There is also a short Afterward which discusses written accounts of the Arthurian legend. Also useful in understanding terminology from medieval times is the glossary which provides definitions of words encountered in the text such as amphora (a two handled wine vessel), bratchet (a hunting dog), circlet (a type of small cake), and so on. There is also a section entitled King Arthur Legend which provides a succinct description of some of the highlights of King Arthur’s life. Finally, there are two sections Questions For Discussion and Enrichment and Additional Reading for those who want to explore the story and legend in more depth.
There are not very many illustrations. There are simple, pencil-drawn illustrations at the beginning of each chapter priming the reader for what will occur in the chapter. These were perfectly appropriate.
Of note, this is not the first middle grade book written about a young Guinevere. Robert D. San Souci has written a series of books centred on the lives of the main characters of Arthurian legend as youths including Young Guinevere, Young Merlin, Young Lancelot, and Young Arthur. Additionally, Jane Yolen has written some books focused on Merlin and King Arthur as youths. However, we have not read those so cannot really comment on how good those books are in comparison.
My bottom line: I read this story to both my children aloud. From Chapter 1 all the way through to the Discussion Questions, my children were captivated by the story. The story is a nice balance between action, elements of magic and fantasy, and important life lessons, all woven within the historical context of medieval times. This was an enjoyable and educational read and I would recommend Guinevere to tween girls and boys.
** I wanted to invite you to visit my friend Erik at This Kid Reviews Books to see his review of Cheryl Carpinello’s other middle grade book, The King’s Ransom. **
* Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend was provided to us free-of-charge by the author in exchange for our honest opinion.*
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