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The Lady Of Shalott Paperback – November 2, 2011
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From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up–This lyrical poem, written nearly 200 years ago, has been given new life through Côté's intelligent artistry. Tennyson's strict stanzas move back and forth in dialogue with the playful, stylized, mixed-media illustrations. The poem's symbolism has been interpreted variously as a work about the isolation of the artist, the inevitability of death, and unrequited love. The art offers room for readers to wander and wonder within the realm of suggestion. Côté's illustrations allow the poem to speak its full range; however, the theme of love is strongly suggested by the depiction of a couple on the opening page glancing over the water to the island where the Lady of Shalott resides alone. Admirably, the art does not depict the Lady of Shalott as a tragic figure; after she declares that she is 'half sick of shadows,' she takes flight from the world of mirrored images as if a butterfly from a chrysalis. The artist's reapers are sinister and humorous; their dark glasses situate them in the modern era. There are industrialized urban centers, bridges, and automobiles. Fans will be born of both Tennyson and Côté. Begin the enchantment early: introduce this volume to students, middle school and up.–Teresa Pfeifer, Alfred Zanetti Montessori Magnet School, Springfield, MA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Gr. 5-7. The pictures in this small book bring an early-twentieth-century urban setting to Tennyson's classic Arthurian poem, written in 1842, about a young woman imprisoned in a tower, endlessly weaving what she sees in the mirror, until she dares to break free and look outside. Tennyson's "four gray walls and four gray towers" is a city building, the river goes under a bridge, and the "knights" come riding in an old-fashioned automobile. Sir Lancelot is a soldier on horseback. With illustrated poetry there is always the danger that overelaborate pictures will overwhelm the words, but Cote's quiet line-and-watercolor and pastel artwork opens up the story, preserving the romance and mystery without filling in too much. The final notes on the poem and the art will make readers go back and look again, and then think about the final picture, which shows a butterfly flying free. This will appeal both to those who know the rhythmic, haunting lines as well as those reading and hearing them for the first time. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Tennyson's poem, composed between the years of 1832-42, drew its inspiration from Sir Thomas Malory's "Le Morte Darthur," a compilation of Arthurian romances printed by William Caxton in 1485, in particular the romance "The Fair Maid of Astolat" in which a summary states: "(And, as the booke sayth, she keste such a love unto sir Launcelot that she cowde never withdraw hir loove, wherefore she dyed. And her name was Elayne le Blanke.)" Tennyson takes the story of Elaine and Lancelot and restructures it ("Lancelot and Elaine") in blank verse in his "Idylls of the King." Elaine's story further inspired "The Lady of Shalott," in which the maiden's unrequited love is a kind of curse which causes her to live a life of illusion through the images in the mirror on her wall. The curse "is on her" if she turns her back on the mirror, the life it reflects, turns to the window of her tower and looks out upon the reality of the outside world. The only way she can connect with reality and the world beyond and escape the curse is to weave the mirror's images into a tapestry.
For textual support, then, one would expect artwork depicting medieval dress and architecture, knights with heraldic crests on their shields. Cotes' Lancelot, though astride a charger, wears a military trenchcoat vintage WWI, sports a medal-laden lapel and what appears to be "motorcycle" goggles riding above the brim of his helmet. Where's the rendering of the Golden Age of Chivalry?? In Part One, stanza three, "heavy barges" and "the shallop," (a small sailboat), are given as a modern fishing boat with one of the crew setting or pulling a net. In the next stanza we see "reapers reaping early" wearing sunglasses as protection from the morning glare. In Part iv, stanza four, Cotes has the dead Fairy Lady float past a river or canal front, drifting by the facade of a twentieth century city (hardly the Camelot I envision) and promenade replete with sidewalk cafe and lounging patrons. (Strange, too, that Cotes' "Fairy Lady" sprouts wings when she's outside her tower. Perhaps the Lady only wears them when she "goes out?") Before Cotes sat down at her easel or drawing board, perhaps she should have consulted two beautiful nineteenth century renderings of The Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt and John William Waterhouse. Both paintings capture faithfully the medieval times of Arthuriana; it is apparent both artists read the text.
If it weren't for its helpful back material, I would have given this edition only a one star rating. I recently shared Tennyson's beautiful story with my mother and purchased this illustrated version for her birthday present. What a disappointment! In the case of this illustrated version of "The Lady of Shalott," the "search inside this book" feature would have been most helpful.