From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 5-8–In the vibrant and compelling voice of a storyteller, Morpurgo retells this classic tale. With a lively, page-turning style, he sets the scene as a crude, gigantic stranger rides into King Arthur's hall. Sir Gawain accepts the challenge of the monstrous man and beheads the Green Knight with a single swing of his battle-ax. But then the enchanted knight picks up his severed head and announces that Gawain must, on his honor, meet his dreadful opponent on the next New Year's Day to receive the same blow. Gawain's travels to the Green Chapel at the end of the year, and the temptations he encounters along the way, are the stuff of legend and, like all folklore, are rich in metaphorical meaning about what it means to be human. Morpurgo's sprightly writing brings out all the humor as well as the horror of the original tale, and Foreman's profuse, evocative watercolor-and-pastel illustrations highlight the drama in each scene so that this version can easily be read on two levels–as a rollicking adventure tale or an allegorical saga, depending on the age and inclination of the reader. Selina Hastings's picture-book version (HarperCollins, 1981; o.p.), illustrated by Juan Wijngaard, is a much-abbreviated retelling; Morpurgo's version is notable for including every nuance of this complex and compelling tale.–Connie C. Rockman, Stratford Library Association, CT
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*Starred Review* Gr. 4-7. In this handsome volume, Morpurgo ably translates one of medieval England's greatest tales from verse into modern prose. When a bold giant, the Green Knight, challenges King Arthur's court to a contest that involves beheading, only one knight, Sir Gawain, steps between his king and the giant's battle-ax. Gawain, Arthur's nephew and one of his most courageous, virtuous, and beloved knights, travels through the wilds of the kingdom, testing his mettle against an ogre, a dragon, and a pack of wolves before he arrives at a castle. There the lord welcomes him like a brother and the lord's lady woos him, making advances that Gawain finds increasingly hard to resist. In the climactic meeting with the Green Knight, Gawain learns that the contest was not a trial of strength but of honor. Morpurgo has not neglected the underpinnings of knightly conduct, courtly love, and Christian virtue that are a vital part of the original, but children will read this story for the adventure--and what an adventure it is! Morpurgo's dramatic telling captures the vitality of the tale as well as its beauty and mystery. Foreman illuminates the book with watercolor-and-pastel illustrations that are true to the story, full of energy, and aglow with colors that are sometimes subdued and sometimes fiery bright. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved