It’s EIGHT days until the release of The Morrigan’s Curse, the third book in my Eighth Day series, described by Kirkus as “an exciting blend of Arthurian legend and organized crime.” In honor of this release, today I'm highlighting King Arthur as an icon in middle grade fiction.
Why King Arthur? Why does he hold such long-lasting allure? One of the best places to look for an answer is with author Jane Yolen, who has written numerous Arthurian based children’s literature ranging from picture books, through middle grade, and up to young adult. In an interview at the back of her YA novel, Sword of the Rightful King, Yolen calls herself an Arthurholic and says, “Quite simply, I think it is the greatest story ever told, or more accurately, the greatest collection of stories ever told.”
Professor Sarah Peverley, medievalist and book historian, explains it further: “Arthur is a touchstone for strong leadership and accord, showing what society could achieve, but never does.” Children, with their natural affinity for justice, are drawn to Arthur because he is honest, honorable, and good-hearted. In Arthur’s kingdom, the strong and powerful dedicate themselves to protecting the weak and powerless. What an inspiring change from today’s society in which even children know that the strong and powerful mostly take care of themselves!
Revisit Arthur, Merlin, the Knights of the Round Table, and Camelot in some of these middle grade works:
The Invisible Tower by Nils Johnson-Shelton – Artie Kingfisher’s favorite video game comes to life when Artie learns that he’s King Arthur reborn and that, along with his sister Kay, he must save the realm of Otherworld. (Goodreads)
Passager by Jane Yolen – In this first book of her Young Merlin trilogy, Yolen explores the childhood of Merlin as an abandoned, feral boy who is taken in by a falconer and re-taught the ways of humans. (Goodreads)
The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper – Drawing on Arthurian legend and Celtic mythology, this five-book series relates the adventures of 20th century children who join an eternal battle between Light and Dark. (Goodreads)
King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green – An excellent choice for middle grade readers wanting to explore the original legends. (Goodreads)
The Squire Tales by Gerald Morris – A series of ten novels that start out following the lively and humorous adventures of Sir Gawaine’s squire, Terrance, then branch into an exploration of other characters, many of whom are drawn from obscure mentions in Arthurian literature. (Goodreads)
The Camelot Code by Mari Mancusi – A magical line of game code accidentally brings a young Arthur into the present day world. When he Googles himself and learns his fate, he decides he’d rather play football than be king. (Goodreads)
The Eighth Day by Dianne K. Salerni – A boy discovers a secret day of the week hidden between Wednesday and Thursday that originates from a 1500-year-old spell cast by Merlin to contain the enemy Kin race. (Goodreads)
And if you’re looking for a King Arthur worth swooning over, try this MG-friendly Young Adult novel:
Sword of the Rightful King by Jane Yolen – What if someone other than Arthur pulled the sword out of the stone? Merlin’s plan to bolster the newly crowned Arthur backfires. (Goodreads)