Top 100 Children’s Novels #68: The High King by Lloyd Alexander
The masterpiece against which all heroic fantasy for young people should be measured. – Emily Willis
Previously #88 on the list the last of the Lloyd Alexander Prydain series makes yet another appearance. Many of us have a great deal of affection for Lloyd Alexander’s books, but how well can a person justify putting the last book in a series on this list without listing the other books alongside it? The answer is in the Medal. The High King was awarded the 1969 Newbery Medal, beating out Honor books To Be a Slave by Julius Lester and When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw and Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer in the process. And if the Newbery committee felt that this book stood on its own, who are we to argue?
The description of the plot from the publisher reads, “When the Sword of Dyrnwyn, the most powerful weapon in the Kingdom of Prydain, falls into the hands of Arawn-Death-Lord, Taran and Prince Gwydion raise an army to march against Arawn’s terrible cohorts. After a winter expedition filled with danger, Taran’s army arrives at Mount Dragon, Arawn’s stronghold. There, in a thrilling confrontation with Arawn and the evil enchantress Achren, Taran is forced to make the most crucial decision of his life.”
Other books in the series include The Book of Three (1964), The Black Cauldron (1965) – which was the winner of the 1966 Newbery Honor, The Castle of Llyr (1966), Taran Wanderer (1967), and The Foundling and Other Tales from Prydain (1970).
- You can read much of the book here.
- Download a map of Prydain if you like.
- Here too is a Reading Group Guide.
And talk about a range of covers!
Confession…. this next one was my favorite, but I can’t find a nicer scan than this. It was by artist Jody Lee who, for a time, did a lot of my favorite fantasy covers. Just wait until you see Jody’s Madeleine L’Engles!
You are out of luck if you wish to see any adaptation of this novel (though there is one done in Lego form that’s mildly amusing). Better to look at this video A Visit With Lloyd Alexander instead. If nothing else, it makes me grateful that we live in a post-typewriter world.
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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