“Birds are a special problem, birds are hard to deal with.” This is what many people seem to think, and understandably, when a bird has just robbed their shop. However, Louis, in E.B.White’s The Trumpet of the Swan, proves exactly the opposite.
Louis is a swan who was born with no ability to make sound or communicate with his family. His father breaks into a store in Montana to find Louis a trumpet so that he can make swan sounds like everyone else and persuade Serena, the swan he loves, to be his mate. With the help of Sam Beaver, an animal-loving boy, he goes to school and learns to communicate with humans by writing on a slate. He also works to earn money to pay for the stolen trumpet by playing songs which Sam helps him learn.
The Trumpet of the Swan is special because of the strong relationship that forms between Sam and Louis, right from when Louis first meets Sam in the woods of Canada, and how they work together to solve Louis’s problems. Their friendship is the heart of the story and is what makes it a forever favorite for me.
Something that surprised me was finding humor in an otherwise moving story. One instance among several that comes to mind is when Louis is swimming in front of the swan boat in Boston playing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” when a boy shouts, “This swan is as good as Louis Armstrong, I’m going to call him Louis.” Then Louis writes on his slate, “That’s actually my name.” This really made me laugh.
White’s poetic description of nature is another feature I enjoyed. For example, the coming of spring is described as a time when “Warm air, soft and kind, blew through the trees.”
With elements of humor, suspense, and realistic imagery, The Trumpet of the Swan is a classic that many people will easily relate to and that you just can’t read too many times.
Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. HarperCollins, 1970. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!
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