Every year, Sam Beaver travels with his father to a remote cabin in the Canadian wilderness. Sam is a young naturalist who loves to observe the world around him and jot down notes and questions in his journal. One day, he notices a peculiar thing, a baby swan (called a cygnet) who has no voice. The young swan, Louis, cannot honk. And because he cannot honk, he is doomed to never find a mate—until father swan risks life and limb on a brave mission to acquire a trumpet for his son.
Louis and his family winter in Montana—as providence would have it—near the home of Sam Beaver. There, Sam teaches young Louis to read and write. Armed with words and with music, Louis launches out to discover his calling as an artist and to build a family.
My gold standard for children’s books are the works of E.B. White. He mastered the art of addressing deep matters of the heart and life in ways that my children can comprehend. His classic, Charlotte’s Web, deals with themes of death and fear. Most books for children that tackle such heavy subjects are out-of-step with a child’s development, but Mr. White delivers them in a way that our children can comprehend. Trumpet of the Swan wraps its story around a great set of ideas: that character is built through each choice we make, responsibility is about using our gifts to their fullest, disability may be a doorway to strength, and that creating a family and a home is a worthwhile and virtuous task.
I love the moral drawn from this story by a young reader, “It doesn’t matter if you’re different; you’re still special.”
I asked my ten-year old daughter what she learned from Trumpet of the Swan. She said, “Something might be really hard, but if you really want to do it, you can.”
These are the life lessons I want my children to learn through the eyes of fictional characters. How I wish Mr. White had written more books. As an adult, I’m captivated by his short, witty sentences. I’m drawn along by how he crafts a tale, and I’m delighted that he has me asking better questions about my own life and calling.
Ideas for Engaging the Story
- Louis finds himself in several sticky situations. Be prepared to stop and ask your children questions. “What would you do if you were Louis?” “Why do you think that Louis chose to…?
- After reading, at bedtime, ask your child to tell you a short story about Louis that is not in the book. It’s amazing what they will come up with.
- After finishing the book, ask, “What made Louis a strong and good swan?”