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The Trumpet of the Swan

Last updated Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Author: E.B. White
Date of Publication: 2000
ISBN: 006028935X
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2007

Synopsis: From Amazon.com: Although he lacks a voice in the traditional "Ko-hoh!" sense, trumpeter swan Louis learns to speak to the world with a trumpet stolen from a music store by his father. With the support of an unusual boy named Sam, who helps Louis learn how to read and write, the swan has some rather unswanlike adventures and ultimately wins the love--and the freedom--of a beautiful swan named Serena. For over 30 years, E.B. White's masterpiece has captured the fancy of countless readers. Now, with stunning new art by award-winning illustrator Fred Marcellino, the beloved story can be experienced anew. The sepia-colored drawings lend an old-fashioned charm to the story--it's almost as if, with their complementary dry wit and uniquely creative talents, White and Marcellino originally worked together.

Note to readers:
•  Start with chapter 4 and read through to chapter 6. Read the following summary of chapters 1-3 and relay this to the students first: Eleven year-old Sam Beaver’s favorite thing to do is go camping with his father in the swampy marshlands of Canada. During one camping trip, Sam discovers the nest of a Trumpeter Swan (This bird was named for its trumpet-like honk which some compare to the sound of a French horn.). He hopes to return soon to see if the eggs have hatched. Sam enjoys reading about birds, and his bird book told him that baby swans are called cygnets (pronounced “signit”) and that they take about 35 days to hatch. Every day, Sam goes to the pond to visit the Trumpeter Swans, where he sits on a log and watches them from a distance. One day, while she is about to lay her fourth egg, the female swan notices that Sam is watching her. She tells her husband, who is worried for the safety of his wife and her eggs. While the male swan (called a cob) wants to scare the boy off, the female swan prefers to let him observe as long as he is causing them no harm. Once the female swan had laid five eggs, she decided to take a break from sitting on her eggs. While she was in the pond drinking water and bathing, a fox crept up to the nest and planned to eat the swan and her eggs. Just as he was about to strike, Sam threw a stick at the fox to scare him away. When Sam said “Hello” to the swans, they trumpeted back with a sound like that of a French Horn. The swans now knew that Sam was their friend, and that he wanted to help them, not to hurt them.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Have you ever heard of E.B. White? Do you know of any other books that he wrote (Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little)? Have you heard these stories?
•  Do you know where Montana/Canada is? From the descriptions in the book, how is the environment different than the environment in Los Angeles?
•  Have you been camping?
•  Have you ever been to a pond or a marsh?
•  Have you ever been somewhere where there aren’t other people around? Where do you go to get away from everything? Do you have a special place where you go with someone special in your family?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Have you ever looked up and seen birds flying in a V?
•  How are ducks different from swans? (Both swim in ponds/marshes/lakes but swans are usually white with long necks.)
•  Have you ever heard animals or birds make sounds? Does it sound like musical instruments or like music? Think of an animal and then imitate the sound they make. (Birds singing, lions roaring, elephants trumpeting, wolves howling….)

Craft ideas:
•  Make an origami swan or an origami duck. Instructions will be provided.
•  Draw a picture of all the animals who make sounds and show the sounds they are making.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!