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Today, I am very pleased to interview my fellow Arthurian author Cheryl Carpinello.

Author Cheryl Carpinello

Cheryl is the author of the young adult novel Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend and today she will be talking about her new novel The King’s Ransom, the first in her new series Young Knights of the Round Table.

Tyler: Welcome, Cheryl. It’s a pleasure to talk to you today. I’ve read and enjoyed both of your books and I only wish they had been around for me to read when I was a kid. To begin, will you tell us what made you decide to write books about the Arthurian legend for children?

Cheryl: I’ve always been fascinated by King Arthur. I’ve probably read just about every fiction story written over the last 15-20 years. One of my favorites is Deepak Chopra’s The Return of Merlin. I’ve also ventured to nonfiction or scholarly accounts like your King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition. However, I’m more of a romantic, and it’s that side of the legend that appeals to me. I like the ideas that surround the legend like might is not right; how when seen from the air, there are no lines or boundaries on Earth—we are all here together, and we need to learn how to get along; and how in Arthur’s time hope still lives. Underneath it all, I believe this is what draws young and old to the legend. What the legend says to kids without them realizing it is that there is a right way and a wrong way to live. This is done with the stories of the knights with their quests, their jousts, their rescuing of the damsels, and their fighting for the underdog. These stories present young readers with vivid accounts of honor, loyalty, and friendship. This is why I chose Arthurian Legend.

Tyler: What age group would you say your books are most suited for?

Cheryl: I typically write shorter books for the readers I’m trying to reach. My focus is on reluctant readers in grades three through eight. These reluctant readers are kids who are able to read, but prefer to do other activities. If I can reach them early in their schooling, it’s just possible I might hook them into exploring other books. I’ve yet to find a student in the younger grades who isn’t excited about the medieval time period. Reluctant readers, my nephew Joe is one, will usually balk at long, fat books, so I shorten mine. I usually add simple illustrations to break up the text, but being an ebook, The King’s Ransom does not have these. I’m hoping my publisher will put the illustrations back in the print book when it comes out later this year.

Tyler:And in this first book, just who are the Young Knights we’re talking about?

The King’s Ransom by Cheryl Carpinello

Cheryl: The Young Knights are three kids who have become friends via their friendship with a beggar/vagabond called the Wild Man. Without the Wild Man, it is likely that they would not have met and become friends because they are from very different backgrounds. Eleven-year-old Gavin is the youngest prince of Pembroke Castle in southern Wales. Fifteen-year-old Bryan has been sent to Pembroke by his parents to learn to be a blacksmith. Thirteen-year-old Philip is an orphan who wandered into Pembroke village and lives and works at the church. They are really just three lonely kids who find friendship with the Wild Man and each other.

Tyler: Will you set up the plot a little for us?

Cheryl: Someone breaks into the king’s (Gavin’s father) treasury in Pembroke Castle and not only steals the medallion The King’s Ransom, but also kills Aldred, the king’s advisor. Being a beggar/vagabond, the Wild Man is captured and charged with the crime. It doesn’t help that a bloody knife is found with his belongings. Gavin, Bryan, and Philip are determined to prove that the Wild Man is innocent. In order to do this, they embark upon a quest where each is tested and must conquer his fears or face humiliation and/or even death.

Tyler: I think the Wild Man is my favorite character. Where did you get the idea for him?

Cheryl: Ah, the Wild Man. He is much more important than it appears. I knew that in order to make The King’s Ransom (Young Knights of the Round Table) work, I had to have a strong tie-in with Arthurian Legend. Sure, King Arthur makes an appearance, but that wasn’t enough. Then I remembered the Wild Man from T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. He worked perfectly. The Wild Man is also mentioned in a number of other Arthurian books, but my Wild Man comes from White.

Tyler: How many books do you think you’ll write for the series?

Cheryl: Right now, I don’t have a definite number in mind, at least two or three more.

Tyler: Is Guinevere going to be tied into the series down the road or is it a completely separate book?

Cheryl: Guinevere won’t be tied into the series because it occurs at the beginning of Arthur’s reign. Young Knights takes place after Arthur is more established. However, another book featuring Guinevere and Cedwyn is in the planning stage. I’ve had several requests from readers to write about what happens to Cedwyn. That’s what the next book or two will deal with in that line.

Tyler: Do you have a favorite Arthurian novel of your own or which ones most influenced you in your own writing?

Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello

Cheryl: I would have to say my favorite is T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. I like how White makes the legend so accessible to a variety of readers. Many people—kids included—are already familiar with White’s story even though they may not be aware of it. Of course, I’m talking about the fact that Disney made the animated feature story The Sword in the Stone from Book I of The Once and Future King.

Tyler: You include several educational items in the book for teachers. Will you tell us a little about those?

Cheryl: One of the many reasons I’m excited about The King’s Ransom is that my publisher MuseItUp wouldn’t let me include the educational pieces in my book. They had me do a separate eighteen-page Teacher Guide that is available as a free PDF download when readers purchase The King’s Ransom from their bookstore. (https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=322&category_id=10&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1) I also have a copy that I can send to readers for free and hand out in classrooms and at workshops. The guide carries that great castle cover and is loaded with resources and materials for teachers and homeschooled students. Included are a synopsis, information on the Arthurian Legend and the medieval time period, castle vocabulary, and a word find puzzle. Teachers have suggestions for discussions, projects, and writing exercises as well as additional medieval references specifically geared for young readers. I also put together a complete set of comprehension questions/answers for all eighteen chapters.

Tyler: How has being a teacher yourself influenced your writing middle grade/tween books?

Cheryl: I’ve written several books over the years. I’ve done an adult romance, a YA romance/bildungsroman, and several stories suitable for picture books. I just never seemed to find a genre I was passionate about writing. Then I started teaching The Once and Future King. My students loved the story and the whole medieval world. After writing Guinevere, I started doing medieval writing workshops in the elementary schools and found every classroom full of kids crazy about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and the medieval time period. I have to say that being in the classroom and working with the younger kids has been my entire motivation for writing my books.

Tyler: What do your students think about having an author for a teacher?

Cheryl: My students were excited when I told them my book would be published at the end of the school year. Then when they found Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend in the school’s library, one of my senior boys told me, “That’s tight, miss.” When the cover proofs for The King’s Ransom came out, the kids picked the one(s) they liked best. In the end though, I combined aspects from a couple of the proofs for the final cover, and they liked that as well. The book released just three days before school ended. Many of my students left me their addresses so that I could contact when the print book comes out later this year. They want an autographed copy.

Tyler: Thank you for the interview, Cheryl. Will you tell us about your website and what information we can find there about The King’s Ransom and the Young Knights of the Round Table series?

Cheryl: Beyond Today (Educator) http://www.beyondtodayeducator.com contains information on the King Arthur Legend and both Guinevere and The King’s Ransom. The events section is a picture gallery of my Medieval writing workshops I do with the Colorado Girl Scouts. The education section currently shows how Guinevere aligns with the Colorado State Standards for Reading and Writing. I’ll be updating a lot of the site this summer.

On my blog Carpinello’s Writing Pages http://carpinelloswritingpages.blogspot.com, I review Children/MG/Tween/YA books, conduct interviews with authors, and post ideas to get kids involved in reading and writing. Visitors can still do the virtual blog tour of the book’s settings in Wales that I posted when The King’s Ransom released.

Tyler: Great, Cheryl. And thanks again for the interview. I can’t wait to hear about the next book.

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First, let me make it clear I am not advocating giving children the Starz’ Camelot series, which was terrible and not appropriate for children. What I am advocating is that you introduce a child to the Arthurian legend this holiday season.

Last year for Christmas I got one of the best gifts ever – an iTunes version of the original Broadway Cast of Camelot–my favorite musical which I listen to almost daily–and it introduced me to iTunes, which has made my music listening better than ever–and my friend who bought it for me showed me how to use iTunes and soon I was discovering the videos as well and purchased the Merlin TV seasons and the HBO production of Camelot. For me, Christmas just doesn’t seem like Christmas without King Arthur.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

I remember Christmas 1992 when I received The Mists of Avalon, which soon became my favorite book. Another year I got the film version of the musical Camelot, another year Excalibur, and Bernard Cornwell’s novels, and many others. I am certain there will be something Arthurian for me under the Christmas tree this year.

But never did King Arthur mean as much to me as when I was a boy and first read the fabulous stories as depicted in Sidney Lanier’s The Boy’s King Arthur. They captured my imagination in a way few other stories have, and they have stayed with me for decades now.

At the end of the Broadway production of Camelot, King Arthur gives the boy Tom of Warwick the mission to spread Camelot’s story by saying:

Each evening, from December to December,

Before you drift to sleep upon your cot,

Think back on all the tales that you remember

Of Camelot.

Ask ev’ry person if he’s heard the story,

And tell it strong and clear if he has not,

That once there was a fleeting wisp of glory

Called Camelot.

In other words, in December we are to tell people of Camelot. Do you know someone who does not know the story and will appreciate, who will aspire to be a better person, to find more magic in life, as a result of discovering the tales of King Arthur? No matter what age, you can introduce Camelot to others.
For children, gifts could include the film version of The Sword in the Stone or picture books about the Arthurian legend.
For older children, how about the Prince Valiant comic books, the Merlin TV series DVDs, or early chapter books like Cheryl Carpinello’s wonderful Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend.

Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello

For teenage readers, Mary Stewart’s Merlin Trilogy is a good introduction (I read them when I was fifteen).
Don’t forget there are more than books and films, there are Arthurian products of all sorts out there. Maybe Mom would enjoy a King Arthur Flour cookbook. King Arthur video games can be found with little searching.
King Arthur playsets can be found at: http://howcool.com/product_info.php?products_id=24451
Think about how you came to King Arthur. Did an adult first introduce you to Camelot with a coloring book, a storybook, a record….
Keep the story of Camelot strong and inspired in the hearts of the next generation! Give the gift of Camelot to kids of all ages at Christmas!

________________________

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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I had intended to write one blog post about the last four episodes of Starz’ Camelot, but so much happened to comment in the final episode that I’ll leave that for one final post.

Camelot on Starz

Through the first six episodes, I wasn’t yet completely won over into even thinking Camelot was a good show, but episodes 7-9 did not drag as much for me and they actually seemed like there was a forward moving plot beginning with episode 7. I did enjoy watching them, but I can’t say, other than there being a plot, that the show got any better since the plot bordered on being ridiculous as times.

Episode 7 doesn’t start off that well. Morgan’s having another dinner party like she had earlier, only this time more than Arthur and Merlin are invited. At least this time Merlin has enough brains to be accompanied by half the court and some knights. Of course, Morgan has ulterior motives, such as making people believe the castle is attacked, that people are turning against Arthur, and that her own men have defeated the enemy. I love Eva Green so I think whatever faults she portrays as an actress in this show are due to bad scripts–Morgan is given some truly over the top lines, and in this episode I found myself actually becoming irritated by her. The delivery of her lines is so over the top that she sounds like Norma Desmond trying to impersonate Katherine Hepburn. The problem is Morgan’s behavior and dialogue is so corny that it’s unbelievable often when she’s trying to deceive people; Green can only do what she can with the strained and unbelievable plotting and dialogue. One gets the sense from watching her that even she knows how ridiculous her lines are and she’s doing all she can not to laugh.

In this episode, a knight named Harwel confesses his love for Morgan, resulting in his lying about the supposed attack and turning against the king for her sake. She’s attractive, so I don’t completely blame him, but why make up a character named Harwel? Where’s Accolon, her usual lover whom she seeks to control and who she charges to kill Arthur? There are so many intriguing characters in the legend that there’s no need to make up new characters.

In this episode, Merlin continues to be his stupid self. It’s like he is completely incapable of acting or taking control of the situation–he’s the most incompetent wizard imaginable. He makes a point of telling Igraine in this episode that Morgan poisoned Uther but that no good can come of Arthur’s knowing. What good can come of keeping it a secret and letting Arthur think his sister might really loves him? Of all the criticism I have seen about Camelot, most people think Merlin is the redeeming grace of the show, but I cannot see that at all. Joseph Fiennes may be a fine actor, like Eva Green, stuck in a bad role, but that’s the most good I can say about Merlin.

Meanwhile Morgan comes to realize that she can destroy Arthur by bringing out the secret of the Arthur-Guinevere affair. She does so by disguising herself as Igraine and returning with the others to Camelot while Igraine is kidnapped and imprisoned in Castle Pendragon.

In Episode 8, Morgan keeps causing trouble in her disguise as Igraine. There are a few moments when one thinks perhaps Morgan has a heart, such as when a small boy, who is friends with Igraine, accidentally dies, but the moments are few. She couples with Merlin, but the reason for her doing so is lacking. And again, how stupid is Merlin if the great sorcerer can’t figure out Igraine isn’t who she claims to be. Finally, we get to the point of the episode when Igraine/Morgan gets Guinevere to confess she’s slept with Arthur and then Igraine/Morgan blabs it to Leontes to make him angry at Arthur, something she hopes will turn Arthur’s knights against him.

Meanwhile, Vivian has a moment of sense when Igraine manages to kill the guard and escape and Vivian does nothing to stop her. Vivian isn’t much good for anything. She’s not a good villainess obviously. Why is she even in the program? She’s been subplanted by Sybil early on. The episode ends with Igraine arriving at Camelot to be confronted by her own image–Morgan in disguise.

In episode 9, Igraine tells Merlin what has been truly going on. He thinks she’s mad at first to claim she was imprisoned by Morgan, but he finally believes her. Then this brilliant wizard decides he and Igraine will go to Castle Pendragon to confront Morgan. Of course, they go with no other warriors to accompany them. This move would be okay if Merlin could shoot balls of fire from his hand or something to protect them, but instead, he and Igraine get captured and hauled back to Camelot in chains, while Arthur is away fighting at Bardon Pass. Seriously, Merlin is the most incompetent wizard ever–have I made that clear yet? I want to think Merlin allows himself to be arrested so Morgan will go to Camelot and show her true colors to the people, but I have a hard time thinking Merlin is really smart enough to manipulate things that way.

Disney's Merlin from The Sword and the Stone - now here's a smart Merlin

Meanwhile, at Bardon Pass in the middle of fighting off invaders whom Arthur and his knights don’t realize are really Morgan’s men, hostility between Arthur and Leontes makes Kay realize something is wrong, and eventually, Arthur confesses that he slept with Guinevere on the same day she wed Leontes. The men are disappointed in him and Kay tells Arthur what any television viewer with half a brain has already figured out, “You’re not a worthy king.”

As I watch these episodes, waiting for the climactic final episode and watching how the plot thickens toward it, there are moments where I find myself curious about what is going to happen, but in summarizing the plot, I can’t help realizing how silly the whole storyline is and the characters’ motivations and actions.

I will admit there is a lot of interesting stuff that happens in the final episode, so stay tuned for my next post–but don’t be surprised that there are some more stupid things that happen as well.

In the end, what has been the best part of Camelot? I’m intrigued by the nun, Sybil, and as over the top as Morgan is, I still like a good villainess. But the true kudos go to the castle of Camelot–it’s beautiful, and perhaps because it doesn’t have any badly written lines, it escapes criticism as part of the supporting cast.

________________________

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend
Cheryl Carpinello
Outskirts Press (2009)
ISBN: 9781432737047

Guinevere Comes Alive as Thirteen-Year Old Prospective Bride in Children’s Novel

Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend by Cheryl Carpinello

There is no end to the number of novels being written about the Arthurian legend, and exciting new children’s author Cheryl Carpinello can now be added to the number of writers recreating the legend for new generations with “Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend.” Carpinello has been teaching the Arthurian legend to her high school English classes for nearly twenty years, and now that interest has resulted in her first novel about a young Guinevere, on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, when her life is about to change forever.

The reader is first introduced to Guinevere when she is in the forest hunting rabbits with her seven-year old friend Cedwyn. She is not quite as ladylike as a princess should be, considering she is the daughter of King Leodegrance. Nor is she happy that as her thirteenth birthday approaches, she will be expected to take on a more adult role in the castle and prepare for possible marriage.

Guinevere finds that things get a bit easier when the wizard Merlyn arrives to participate in her birthday celebrations. But King Arthur also comes, and through her father, he makes a proposal she is uncertain is in her best interests.

After a fantastic birthday party and a couple of encounters with a magical beast in the forest, Guinevere starts to accept what her role will be in the future. She also realizes she still has some time left to enjoy her youth, and she is happy that her adult role will allow her young friend, Cedwyn, eventually to fulfill his own dream of becoming a squire and then a knight.

Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend is not a long or complicated story. It is just over one hundred pages, but it is a pleasant reading experience. It does not try to accomplish too much, but rather it is one of those rare books where the author understood that less is more and fully delivers in making each page valuable and interesting. The sighting of a unicorn in the book is an example of this—the delicate handling of the scene leaves the reader as much in awe as Guinevere over the magical beast. Similarly, the illustrations are not elaborate but simple drawings, yet they are magical for what they leave to the reader’s imagination. While the influence of T.H. White can be felt in the novel’s pages, and perhaps a bit of Disney’s film version The Sword in the Stone in the illustrations, Carpinello manages to create a unique and original version of Guinevere’s childhood.

Carpinello is obviously enthusiastic about sharing the Arthurian legend with young readers. Her biography states that “The focus in her writing is on reluctant readers.” I felt she provided enough magic and detail to appeal to readers of all ages, especially in her realistic portrait of Guinevere coming of age. I also appreciated her short, educational section at the book’s end, including a discussion of the King Arthur Legend, a glossary, discussion questions, and some additional reading. The book is suitable for readers, depending on their reluctance or proclivity to read, from about third grade through middle school, although as an adult, I enjoyed the book thoroughly.

Well done all around, “Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend” is a novel sure to win readers’ hearts and add to the many fans of the King Arthur legend. Perhaps best of all, Carpinello is now busy writing “The King’s Ransom,” the first in her prospective “Young Knights of the Round Table” series. To learn more about Cheryl Carpinello and her books visit www.beyondtodayeducator.com

________________________

Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. is the author of King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition, available at www.ChildrenofArthur.com

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