Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Trumpet of the Swan

I have been reading books aloud to my girls for at least two years.  Their ability to sit still, listen and retain the story has improved immensely.  Recently I read The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White to them, on recommendation from a friend.  I had never read this book and had no idea what it was about, but we all loved it.

We had read two other E.B. White books before: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Stuart Little.  At first this book did not seem like either one of those books, which seem more fanciful.  The book opens on a remote Canadian pond in which a pair of trumpeter swans give birth to five cygnets (a baby swan).  A young boy, Sam Beaver, spies on the swans and writes about them in his diary.  Initially the book seemed like a nature, Boy Scout type book.

One of the cygnets, Louis, is born with no voice.  The remainder of the novel recounts his story: his father obtaining a trumpet for him, Louis traveling around the country as a musician, his falling in love.  I don't want to give out too many details and spoil the story for you.

The girls loved this story.  This is the first novel I have ever read to them where Catherine actually brought me the book, put it in my hands, and asked me to read the next chapter.  We learned a little about several disciplines: music (how a trumpet works, different music he played like jazz, classical, Taps), geography (Louis was born in Canada, fell in love in Montana, worked in Boston and Philadelphia, traveled across the South to return to Montana to start a family), science (the various animals and habitat of the ponds).

In addition, this book led to some interesting discussions about disabilities.  Louis was born perfectly healthy, except he had no voice.  He was mute, unable to make any noise with his mouth.  Yet, he developed other, non-traditional (for a swan), methods to communicate.  As a result, he became more famous and wealthy than any so-called normal swan.  His disability was actually a catalyst to an exciting, full life.  It made him special, unique. 

The correlation between Louis and Catherine was so obvious I did not even have to make the connection for her.  After Louis was born and it was determined that he had no voice and was different, Catherine said to me "he is a little different, just like me."  Immediately after Louis' parents figure out that he can't make noise, his father vows to find a solution for him.  I explained to Catherine that we, as her parents, will also help her overcome her physical differences.  And like Louis, she will have an exciting, full life in ways we can not imagine.

I hope I have convinced you to read this book to your children!

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