Kevin Crossley-Holland,
Arthur, Book I:
The Seeing Stone

(Scholastic, 2000)

In 12th-century England, a young boy named Arthur is living the fairly ordinary life of a second son in a manor house -- until the strange, hooded man named Merlin gives him a magical stone that lets him witness scenes from the past and another young boy named Arthur.

Recounted mostly in short, clipped entries in Arthur's secret diary, he struggles to find his own way in the world as he watches with fascination as Arthur-in-the-Stone finds his. Oddly, Arthur sees in his earlier counterpart a mirror image of himself, and soon the story he's watching and the life he's living begin to merge in his imagination.

Kevin Crossley-Holland writes the tale from a child's perspective, but it's not written childishly. The writing is intelligent and thorough, detailing life in two remote centuries in Britain's past. Sometimes, Arthur's thoughts and desires are those of a youngster who still desires to run and play, while at other times, he ponders his future and the fate of his family in a very adult-like manner.

Crossley-Holland's portrayal of two distinct eras is packed with historical detail and, the Seeing Stone notwithstanding, the story is refreshingly free of magic.

Of course, the book ends with many loose ends outstanding, so readers who enjoy it will have to look to the sequels to find out the rest. I'm certainly curious to see how the story ends.

by Tom Knapp
29 April 2006

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