The Sunflower Sword by Mark Sperring and Miriam Latimer
|The Sunflower Sword by Mark Sperring and Miriam Latimer|
|Genre: For Sharing|
|Reviewer: Keith Dudhnath|
|Summary: An interesting tale of a little knight armed with a sunflower, rather than a sword. Despite a promising start, it tails off a little towards the end - but that might just be my grizzled cynicism.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 32||Date: May 2010|
|Publisher: Andersen Press|
|External links: Author's website|
There's a little knight (who looks remarkably like a boy with a colander on his head) who wants to battle with dragons a sword, but his mum says he can't. He's desperate to whoosh and swoosh with a shining blade, so she gives him a sunflower instead, and off he goes to the top of a hill to do battle with not one but three imaginary dragons. There's a roar of fire and billowing smoke, and he finds himself face to face with a real dragon...
Right up to this point, I loved The Sunflower Sword. It's quirky, it's sweet, it's playful. The joke that he's just a boy, not a real knight, is clear to the young audience, but isn't explicitly stated in the text. He's always referred to as a little knight, and placing that trust in the reader really pays off. There's a nice style and sense of humour. There's an awful lot to like. ...Up to that point.
'Scuse spoilers, but after that, the dragon is won over by the flower, all the other knights realise flowers are better than swords, and the land becomes peaceful again. Now, I'm pretty anti-war as a general rule, and if picture books can't be wide-eyed and idealist, well, who or what can? But, the ending just felt naive and even disappointing. I had similar complaints about The General by Janet Charters and Michael Foreman, so maybe I'm just a bitter and cynical old fool. Maybe the clue was there in the title! I'll admit to not knowing how the story could have progressed better, but the first half does definitely work better for me than the second.
Do take a look anyway. I'd be absolutely delighted if it clicked better for you, particularly for those who have pacifist or hippy sensibilities. I loved Miriam Latimer's illustrations - the little knight is a great character, and the style suits both the quirky start and gentle finish. Overall, The Sunflower Sword felt like a missed opportunity to me, but I hope you feel otherwise.
My thanks to the publishers for sending it to Bookbag.
I really enjoyed Mark Sperring's earlier work Green. It's a quirky tale that grows and grows on you - in fact, I'm tempted to bump it up to 4.5 stars. Sir Laughalot by Tony Mitton and Sarah Warburton is another tale of knights, dragons, and avoiding fighting. For more plant-based fun, check out The Giant Carrot by Allan Manham and Penny Dann.
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