cover image The World of King Arthur and His Court: People, Places, Legend, and Lore

The World of King Arthur and His Court: People, Places, Legend, and Lore

Kevin Crossley-Holland. Dutton Books, $25 (128pp) ISBN 978-0-525-46167-8

Liberally studded with sophisticated paintings and miniatures, this comprehensive trove of Arthuriana will delight young readers with a taste for history. Crossley-Holland (Storm) utilizes an encyclopedia-like format, devoting a few pages to ""Knights, Knighthood and Chivalry,"" a spread to ""The Thirteen Treasures of Britain,"" a page to the Crusades, etc. He introduces key characters, describes daily life for lords and ladies and their servants; he quotes Chaucer on outfitting a knight, and gives lessons from the Book of Nurture on being a proper butler (""Never huff and puff bad breath up your master's nose""). The eminently browsable structure meets its match in Crossley-Holland's dramatic prose style: ""Powerful and attractive, mysterious, vulnerable, and vengeful--like lake waters, the Lady of the Lake is all of these things."" Elsewhere, he describes Geoffrey of Monmouth's History as ""a kind of best-selling, patriotic, historical novel."" Malone (The Magic Flute) borrows medieval and Renaissance subjects and compositions, but while his palette is rich with blues and greens and golds, his sensibility is definitely contemporary, particularly his use of space. Lavish with detail, both his full-spread paintings and his spot illustrations are ripe with mystery and romance. If ever a book could ignite a passion for Camelot, this is it. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)