Written by Gerald Morris
Illustrated by Aaron Renier
An entertaining adaptation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, this is the second book in the Knight’s Tales series. In this story, King Arthur’s court is struggling with how to behave. They have skills like bashing each other with long pointy sticks called lances. But more and more the knights are expected to be polite. Being courteous is an idea that doesn’t make sense to the men of action. When Gawain rescues a woman from a dragon and boasts about his feat, he is confused by her irritation. Then, when King Arthur is also annoyed, Gawain begins to examine his behavior for ways he could have reacted differently. Then a green giant crashes King Arthur’s New Year’s Eve party, although he is polite about it, and offers a strange game. Trade blows with his axe. He will take the first axe-strike and Gawain will get his turn this time next year. Gawain accepts the challenge and promptly chops off the giant’s head. The giant simply picks up his head and says, “See you this time next year.” Through a series of unexpected meetings, Gawain is able to redeem himself with the lady he first offended and trick the giant while still honoring his word and learning a few manners along the way.
Told with humor that will appeal to young readers, the story is accessible and can even teach a thing or two about the value of courtesy and friendship without being preachy. The black and white drawings pick up the humor to illustrate the story with the same sassiness that is found in the text. This is a good class read aloud or appropriate for a fourth grader to read to a younger reading buddy. The plot twists and turns are well-laid out. A possible literacy activity would be to make a chart of turning points and then pose the question, “What would change if Gawain made a different decision?” Students could write their own discussion questions for this one because of the great discussion potential.