March 2017

The Trumpet of the Swan

by E. B. White

Like the rest of his family, Louis is a trumpeter swan. But unlike his four brothers and sisters, Louis can’t trumpet joyfully. In fact, he can’t even make a sound. And since he can’t trumpet his love, the beautiful swan Serena pays absolutely no attention to him. Louis tries everything he can think of to win Serena’s affection – he even goes to school to learn to read and write. But nothing seems to work. Then his father steals him a real brass trumpet. Is a musical instrument the key to winning Louis his love?


A Note from the First Lady:

Dear Read20 Book Club families,

Louis, a trumpeter swan born without a voice, employs determination and hard work to overcome his physical challenge, taking on adventures along the way. There are many great themes in this novel, including honesty, the importance of family, courage, sacrifice, and perseverance when facing difficult circumstances. Most of all, I love that this story encourages readers to find their own voice and to appreciate the value of difference and imperfection.

As you read this book together, be sure to ask questions about the story along the way! Research shows that stopping to ask questions about ‘What is going to happen next?’ or ‘Why do you think that happened?’ encourages important language development and a deeper understanding of the text that wouldn’t happen otherwise. It’s important to remember that story time isn’t limited to just reading. By actively engaging in dialogue and questioning around a story, parents can help put students on a fast-track for reading success.


Keep up the great work!

Crissy Haslam
First Lady of Tennessee


Fun Family Activities for the Book of the Month

Problems and Solutions: In this novel, there are several problems and different ways the characters solve them. For example, one of the biggest problems is that Louis has no voice. Write down several problems in the novel and how they are solved. Next, brainstorm different ways to overcome each challenge. Chose what you believe is the best solution for each situation and explain why you made your selection.

Understanding Differences: Would you describe Louis as disabled? What do you think it felt like for him to be different from his family and peers?  Reading this book can help give insight into what it would be like to overcome a disability. How can we be more helpful and understanding of those who might be facing unique challenges?

Explain the Passage What lessons can be learned from this passage? After learning that Louis has no voice, his father said: "Do not let an unnatural sadness settle over you, Louis. Swans must be cheerful, not sad; graceful, not awkward; brave, not cowardly. Remember that the world is full of youngsters who have some sort of handicap that they must overcome. You apparently have a speech defect. I am sure you will overcome it, in time. There may even be some slight advantage, at your age, in not being able to say anything. It compels you to be a good listener. The world is full of talkers, but it is rare to find anyone who listens. And I assure you that you can pick up more information when you are listening than when you are talking."

Setting: Map out the various places that Louis visits during his journeys. Where are these places? Have you ever been to any of them? Choose a location to research further: where is it, how many people live there, how would one get there from where you are, what happens there and why would people like to visit?

Further Reading: The Trumpet of the Swan is written by E. B. White, an American author who also wrote other children’s classics, including Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. Have you read either of these books? Visit your local library to check them out! How would you compare the books? Do you have a favorite? If you want to learn more about E.B. White, check out Melissa Sweet's Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White that incorporates White’s personal letters, photos, and family relics to share the story of this American literary icon.