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The Trumpet of the Swan

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Generations have grown up with E. B. White's classic novels. One of his best-loved books, The Trumpet of the Swan, about a cygnet who finds his voice, is now a full-length animated film from Sony. Now younger readers can experience the joy of reading about Louie the trumpeter swan and his friends in these adorable readers with original full-color illustrations.

Louie is very popular. Who wouldn't love a swan who can read, write, and play the trumpet? When Louie goes to camp, he meets a boy named A.G. who doesn't like birds, and since Louie is a bird, that means he doesn't like Louie. When A.G. pulls a dangerous stunt out on the lake, he realizes that Louie is a hero, after all.

252 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1970

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About the author

E.B. White

83 books2,586 followers
Elwyn Brooks White was a leading American essayist, author, humorist, poet and literary stylist and author of such beloved children's classics as Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. He graduated from Cornell University in 1921 and, five or six years later, joined the staff of The New Yorker magazine. He authored over seventeen books of prose and poetry and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1973.

White always said that he found writing difficult and bad for one's disposition.

Mr. White has won countless awards, including the 1971 National Medal for Literature and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, which commended him for making “a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”

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5 stars
31,721 (42%)
4 stars
24,391 (32%)
3 stars
14,509 (19%)
2 stars
3,194 (4%)
1 star
1,253 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,841 reviews
Profile Image for Leslie.
32 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2012
This is the funniest shit, I swear. The humor in this book is surreal. The cob has me in stitches with his over-the-top florid speeches, but it's the little details that kill me. Like how nobody goes crazy when a bird learns how to read and write "catastrophe." Or like when Louis spends the night at the Ritz, he goes to take a shower and he draws the curtain. HE DRAWS THE CURTAIN. I'm like, LOUIS, YOU ARE A SWAN. You've been naked since the day you were hatched, and all the millions of times you've bathed, you've never had to draw no curtains and suddenly, when you're alone in a hotel bathroom, you get bashful. HOW DO YOU EVEN KNOW ABOUT CURTAIN-DRAWING. You really have to admire Louis' dedication to his music. How many of you would mutilate your own feet so that you would play an instrument? Well, hopefully none, because humans don't use their feet to play anything except maybe footsie or foot bongo. But Louis is so hardcore, he's like, OH ARE YOU DONE OPERATING WITHOUT ANESTHETICS UPON MY BODY BECAUSE I FELT NO PAIN, SIR, 'TWAS BUT A PRICK.
Profile Image for Ty.
127 reviews32 followers
August 18, 2011
I have no idea how I managed to not read this as a kid. It's way more fun than Stuart Little, not nearly as sad/good as Charlotte's Web, but almost as funny. Maybe funnier, actually. Just like in Charlotte's Web, E.B. ends the book with a calm, beautiful, somewhat embarrassing paragraph that I want to fall asleep under, and this time I printed it off and taped it to my wall so that I actually can. You can too:

Profile Image for Tamara.
195 reviews
April 13, 2013
I'm re-reading this with my kid. I loved this book when I read it as a child. An all time childhood favorite. I really enjoy it now, especially all the literary and biblical references I didn't get when I was Nicco's age. I love the over the top flowery sentiments of Louis' father. It did seem much more exciting and dangerous when I was young, and I COMPLETELY missed the disturbing hipocrisy of Louis, the weak and defected cygnet among his siblings, agreeing to sell his own future weak offspring into zoo slavery to prevent his lady love from being enslaved in the zoo. It may have bothered me less if he hadn't, ON THE PREVIOUS PAGE, said to the bird man of the zoo, "safety and security are well and fine, but I prefer freedom."
Profile Image for Rachel Aranda.
872 reviews2,259 followers
July 17, 2020
4.25-4.5 stars

If someone would have told me I’d have enjoyed a book discussing the life of a swan, then I would have been unsure such a book existed and hesitant to believe this sentence. Yet here we are. It doesn’t surprise me this book comes from the author who penned a book about a spider saving their BFF pig’s life.

I really enjoyed the fact that the author narrated this book. His voice is nice and I'd be willing to listen to another book that he narrated as he's better than some of the authors I've listened to even with the advantages of more current recording technology. To my surprise, there were parts where a trumpet actually played as part of the recording. These parts were a bit loud compared to Mr. White’s smooth voice, but who can play a brass instrument softly. A good volume makes this not too big a problem but I would recommend listening in a quiet area. As someone who doesn’t play an instrument I appreciated this added detail for the audiobook. I read a print copy of this story while listening to the audiobook and found the audiobook really added to my enjoyment of the story. There wasn't any other background noises that come with older recordings that can prove to be distracting like static.

The story was cute and it was nice how the Swan parents and their human friend pulled together to try and help their son and friend have as many advantages that he could. It was really nice hearing how someone who couldn't talk wasn't pitied too much and tried to live a normal yet incredible life. So glad I decided to give E.B. White another read as I really enjoyed "Charlote's Webb" by him too.
Profile Image for Karen.
496 reviews20 followers
September 11, 2009
I read this book to my kids at bedtime over a few months and I found kind of disappointing although my kids seemed to really like it. It's imaginative and has a few good characters (my personal favorite was Louis' dad), but I have several complaints:
1) The "romance" with Serena REALLY irritated me - not only was there nothing redeeming about her other than her looks, it was ridiculous that she "blew off course" while in Montana and just happened to end up at the Philadelphia zoo.
2) I had moral issues with the fact that he agreed to give up some number of his future offspring as "sacrifices" to the zoo (I know, I know, I am taking this way too seriously)
3) It feels kind of disjointed - the overall plot doesn't hold together very well
4) It lacks the emotional connection and wonder of a book like Charlotte's Web which is a true masterpiece
Profile Image for Stacy.
1,004 reviews91 followers
May 17, 2021
One of my favorites.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
887 reviews49 followers
March 7, 2023
I can’t believe I’ve never read this before! I loved buddy reading it with my friends Jessica and Melissa for Middle Grade March 2023. I ended up listening to the full book on audio narrated by E.B. White himself. It included the trumpet notes and tunes through the story which was wonderful. White’s storytelling through his voice worked well too. His voice isn’t flashy, but his love of his story and his characters shone through. He also has an endearing New England accent. (I kept pronouncing words in my head like he did!)

This story has a similar narrative structure to Charlotte’s Web but the characters and setting and plot are unique. This book also features an animal-human friendship between Louis the Swan and Sam Beaver and I loved that! Louis becomes quite a well traveled bird by the story’s end and his evolution from being a signet (baby swan) with no voice to a grown-up swan who has learned multiple ways to communicate is wonderful. His father the Cobb is quite a funny character too. He gets to have his own share of adventures.

Highly recommend!
Profile Image for El.
1,355 reviews504 followers
September 28, 2014
If I read this book as a child, I probably didn't make it very far. My reasoning would likely have been "It's no Charlotte's Web", one of my all-time favorite children's stories. "Where's Wilbur? Is Charlotte going to appear?"

A young boy named Sam Beaver discovers some swans, one of whom is named Louis. Poor Louis is, as everyone likes to remind him, defective because he can't make swan-noises. But he doesn't let that get him down! He has dreams, big dreams, and he is going to win the eye of that lady-swan, even though he cannot communicate with her because love transcends all.

It's a cute story, with some adventure and financial debt and a lot of misogyny that is hard to overlook because, good lord, this is a children's story and what are we teaching our young readers anyway? Dream big, kids, don't worry if you're broken; you'll one day own a woman!

Also it's not Charlotte's Web and I cannot forgive it for that which is really unfair to the memory of E.B. White and all, but c'mon. Charlotte's Web is RADIANT. (But this book is not nearly as heartbreaking as Charlotte's Web either.)

Children reading this book will learn all about swans, that women are possessions, the word 'crepuscular', that all musicians are poor, and that math is stupid.

Quick read for an adult reader, took me less than two hours. Thanks to the person (who I think I'm actually friends with here on GR) who left this in one of those free library mailbox things in Regent Square. I'll take it back to another mailbox so hopefully an actual child who hasn't read it can get some joy out of it.
Profile Image for Loraine.
2,916 reviews
April 28, 2017
The incomparable classic children's author, E.B. White, wrote not only a delightful fantasy in Charlotte's Web but also in this book, The Trumpet of the Swan. This book would be a wonderful read-aloud for young elementary students as well as a great chapter book for older elementary readers. Louis, a swan, is born without a voice. Yet through ingenuity and a touch of fantasy he finds ways to live a full life as well as woo the beautiful swan he falls in love with as he gets older. This book would be a wonderful introduction to a discussion of celebrating differences and learning ways to cope with disabilities whether they be small or large. A wonderful classic children's book that I somehow missed as a child and an elementary teacher.
Profile Image for Shiloah.
Author 1 book166 followers
October 20, 2019
What a wonderful book! I’m a bit ashamed that I struggled to find an interest in even starting it and now in my forties this is my first experience with this gem. Thankfully, it was a read aloud with my kids. There is much to love and appreciate in this children’s classic including overcoming adversity, good work ethics, honesty, perseverance, unselfishness, honor, family, love, trust, and so much more.

*Side note: I’m still giggling about the Dad’s long monologues.

*P.S. The audio version is WONDERFUL! Love the Brooklyn accent and the trumpet 🎺 music.
Profile Image for Kelli.
844 reviews392 followers
April 30, 2015
I typically don't review children's books here unless they are very long or very good. This book is both. I'm not sure how I escaped reading this as a child but I'm certain that I didn't because the story is unique and memorable. Louis, a trumpeter swan born without a voice, employs determination and smarts to remedy this obstacle and win the heart of his love, all the while embarking on adventures and working to right wrongs along the way. My 8 year old daughter said "this book teaches children to be a rightful citizen and an honest and kind friend." What could be better than that? A story with morals, comedy and a nature lesson.
Profile Image for Minh Nhân Nguyễn.
171 reviews278 followers
April 17, 2018
4 sao.

Cuốn này đọc phần đầu cảm thấy nó đúng là truyện dành cho thiếu nhi, mọi thứ diễn ra đơn giản, chậm rãi và được giải quyết một cách nhẹ nhàng quá nên đọc có phần hơi chán. Nhưng càng về sau câu chuyện càng có màu nghiêm túc hơn, chạm tới những vấn đề phức tạp của người lớn như đi làm, kiếm tiền, cách đối xử với nhau, những thương lượng, th��a hiệp... nhiều tình tiết có cảm giác sắp gợi mở ra một diễn tiến tăm tối hơn nhưng cuối cùng mọi thứ cũng diễn ra một cách trơn tru, yên bình, trẻ con đọc chắc cũng không nhận ra đâu, nhưng đây là một cách tuyệt vời để bước đầu giới thiệu với chúng những phức tạp của xã hội bên ngoài.

Có những tình tiết để lại ấn tượng nơi mình sau khi đọc xong, đó là tình cảm của thiên nga cha dành cho Louis, cách Louis xoay xở kiếm tiền trong xã hội loài người, những bản nhạc của chú với chiếc kèn trumpet. Ngoài những điều đó ra, nói chung nội dung sách khá dễ chịu và dễ đoán nhưng đối với một cuốn sách rõ là dành cho thiếu nhi thì như vậy là quá đủ.

Tác giả đã tận dụng nhiều tình huống để lồng ghép các bài học cho trẻ em, như tập tính loài thiên nga khi chọn nơi xây tổ ấp trứng, hành trình di cư của chúng, cách liệt kê một loạt các con vật ở Vườn bách thú hay ngay cả cách tính toán các món tiền Louis kiếm được. Với những yếu tố đó cuốn sách này càng thích hợp để cha mẹ cùng đọc và cùng học hỏi những điều mới với bọn trẻ của mình. Hình minh họa khá đầy đủ nhưng hơi tiếc là chỉ được in trắng đen nên không rõ nét, nếu được in màu thì sẽ tuyệt vời hơn, nhất là đối với trẻ em nữa.

Còn đánh giá trên khía cạnh là một người đọc trưởng thành thì hẳn cũng sẽ bị cuốn hút bởi tâm hồn tự do, bay bổng, lãng đãng của chú thiên nga Louis, đặc biệt là sự giải thoát của chú khỏi vòng xoáy xã hội loài người, khỏi những nợ nần, lo toan tiền bạc hẳn cũng là niềm mơ ước của bất cứ ai vẫn còn nằm trong vòng xoay đó.

Một cuốn sách thiếu nhi không quá xuất sắc nhưng cũng thuộc loại khá, xứng đáng được đọc đến.
Profile Image for Jan.
556 reviews24 followers
December 20, 2016
I loved this book growing up and was a little afraid to re-read it for fear that the memory would not live up to the reality. But I needn't have worried....this is such a delightful fun story! Who could not fall in love with Louis the swan as he searches for a way to communicate since he was born without a voice. I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author. I loved every minute of it - it felt like grandpa telling me a story. A 5 star experience!!!
Profile Image for Luisa Knight.
2,728 reviews692 followers
June 26, 2022
Very clever! Especially ending with the word “crepuscular” and not providing the definition. That’s one way to get kids to open a dictionary. Ha, ha!

It’s an engaging story and a great way to learn about the life and habits of swans with some entertaining fiction thrown in! A good book to hand to your kiddos for some light, educational reading.

Ages: 5 - 12

Cleanliness: uses the word “goodness” and the like. A swan steals a trumpet but pays back his debt.
Profile Image for Cherie.
1,278 reviews113 followers
September 25, 2019
What a treat to listen to this endearing and timeless story narrated by the author. It was quite a surprise, after downloading the book simply because the book cover shows a swan holding a trumpet under his wing. I loved Louie and his adventure.
Profile Image for Calista.
3,803 reviews31.2k followers
November 18, 2017
A story about overcoming adversity. How do you find a mate without a voice, if you are a swan? Your father knows to make speeches and eventually steals a trumpet for you. This is a zany story of a swan who can talk and play the trumpet.

I enjoyed the story and this was 75 pages too long. The book should have ended long before it did. The last scene with the father was so unnecessary and that part dragged.

There is something powerful about overcoming a handicap. Louis didn't get mad or lash out at those around him. He put his energy into learning to overcome obstacles in his way to his goal. It's also simply a fun story. I have now read 3 of E. B's works and I would say that this is his second best work. Charlotte being his first.
Profile Image for C..
18 reviews1 follower
September 22, 2008
So the swan named Louis, he went around with a slate because he didn't have any voice. And he tried so hard and but he couldn't talk. He got a trumpet and a slate, a gold medal for saving someone's life, and guess what? He got a money bag because his father stole the trumpet. That's it. It's a five star book because I liked it a lot. My favorite part is when he broke in the door and then the owner of the store came after him and he got the trumpet and he went away. I know that is stealing but they are swans. How do swans get money? Louis knows how. If you want to find out, read it!
Profile Image for Laura.
720 reviews78 followers
May 5, 2020
My kids were all absorbed in this one! I was skeptical of a plot revolving around a swan who is a jazz artist, but I trust EB White to pull off whatever he attempts. And I was right to do so. We all loved how Louis the swan collected skills and experiences and equipment, until fate brought him just the opportunity he had been preparing for the whole time. We loved, and will add to our family vocabulary, the “beginning to look like a hippy” line that Louis uses to describe himself once he’s encumbered with a few too many possessions around his swan neck. We also took some time to “research” swan attacks. Fun for the whole family! A gem I’m sorry I didn’t read sooner.
Profile Image for Izzy Smith.
84 reviews5 followers
November 19, 2018
I thought it was very good. And I also thought that Louie was very funny! I liked how the story was about swans, because swans are very unusual animals to write about.👍
Profile Image for Nikki in Niagara.
3,824 reviews121 followers
March 11, 2011
Acquired: Purchased a used copy at a book/garage sale or thrift shop.

Reason for Reading: I've picked a bookshelf to randomly read my own books from this year and this is my first read from that shelf. This is a perennial favourite of mine.

I've read this several times now. Originally as a child, then as an adult, again as a read aloud to my eldest son, and now once more and the book still has not lost its charm for me. This is going to make a nice bedtime read for dh and ds and I'll be putting it in their pile. Trumpet is my favourite of White's three children's novels. Louis is an unassuming hero, with a sense of right and wrong, dignity and someone who works hard to get what he wants out of life. Born without a voice, he gets by until he is old enough for mating season. Then, of course, he can't attract the female he is in love with so his father heads to the city and steals a trumpet for him. Louis is so thankful, he learns to play, but first he must earn money to pay back his father's debt both for the trumpet and the damage he did to the store and thus follows the story of Louis' adventures as he earns a living at various venues first playing as a bugler and then after a slight operation to one foot learning the full use of the trumpet. He becomes famous in the towns and cities he plays in but his heart is always set on earning the money, so he can get back to his family and his lady love. He also repeatedly is assisted and visited by Sam Beaver, a boy he met when he was just a newly hatched gosling.

It is a simple story, possibly considered slow to some compared to more modern fare but it tells a good tale. It's a story of good people, animals mostly with good human qualities and both Sam and Louis are good role models, they type of person we all want to be like someday. Though written in the seventies, there isn't really much to place the story in time. There are a few instances when this is brought to the reader's attention; I remember the word "hippie" but otherwise the book is quaint and could be taking place in any time period of the more mannered, politer past. A lovely story, sure to be enjoyed by animal lovers.

One of my goals in reading books from this random shelf is to move books out of the house that are not going to be part of my permanent collection, but this one is a keeper. I had wanted to get the hardcover, collector's edition to match Charlotte's Web & Stuart Little that I have, which have both been respectfully colourized. But when I saw the hardcover version of this I also saw that the illustrations had been completely redone by a new illustrator so I took a pass on getting that version. In fact, the paperback versions include the new illustrations as well. The original illustrations don't seem to be available in any currently available new editions. So I'm keeping this edition, which is the exact same one that I had as a kid.
Profile Image for Julie G .
870 reviews2,685 followers
October 20, 2019
I love E.B. White, and Charlotte's Web is one of my all-time favorite children's books, but this book is just more dated than it needs to be. Or, more dated than I needed or wanted it to be. In one scene, the human protagonist, 10-year-old Sam Beaver, and a group of young boys gather before their new camp counselor, Mr. Brickle, and he announces to them:

"And now it's time for everybody to go to bed. You may take a swim before breakfast tomorrow, and you don't need to wear your swim trunks. Just jump out of bed when you hear the trumpet of the swan, strip off your pajamas, race to the dock, and dive in. I will be there ahead of you to do my celebrated back-flip from the diving tower."

After I read this to my SIX-year-old, she exclaimed in a near-panic,"Mommy, is he telling them to strip naked butt and swim in front of him?"

It's funny, because I had the exact visceral reaction to that passage and answered immediately, "Honey, if ANYONE ever asks you to do such a thing, call Mommy, Daddy, or the police immediately, and as you wait for Mommy to show up with her metal baseball bat, run into the woods and try your luck with the bears."

Yes, Mr. Brickle (if that indeed is your real name), I can imagine that you DO like getting there ahead of the children. . . I mean, what the hell? If this had been written before 1940, I might have understood some of the social differences of another era, but this was written in 1970. Maybe Mr. White hadn't stayed current with the times and this was written toward the end of his life, and maybe I'm just a sad product of being born much later, when the world was filled with perverts, but this type of writing really prevented me from loving this story.
Profile Image for Esther May.
778 reviews
May 12, 2020
The Trumpet of the Swan is an absolutely fabulous book. All children, and parents of children should read it. Louis, a swan, was born without a voice. After becoming aware of this 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."

This is the story of how Louis finds his voice. The characters in this book are lovable. The plot is intriguing. The climax fascinating. There are many parallels to real life that can stir up great conversations with children. (overcoming hardship, finding what you really want to do in life, taking care of nature, accepting others, kindness) I recommend reading this book to your kids.
Profile Image for Melissa McShane.
Author 58 books738 followers
November 8, 2016
I read this for the 2016 YA/MG Book Battle.

This was cute, but ultimately too self-conscious to appeal to me. I did love it when Louis, the swan who’s been accumulating possessions that hang around his neck, starts listing them off and then says “I’m beginning to look like a hippie.” But there’s no real tension in this book, Louis’s path is unhindered by serious challenges, and he even gets the girl swan of his dreams through an unrealistic weather contrivance. It’s all a little too easy. What worked for me in Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web just didn't happen here.
Profile Image for Morgan.
Author 1 book83 followers
August 1, 2017
This was far better than Stuart Little in the fact it had an actually ending, but it wasn't as good as Charlotte's Web I thought. I really liked the parts with Boston and the Swan Boats (if you haven't been and need something family friendly to do...). Having ducks, I found this amusing too. Okay my ducks aren't swans, but maybe I can give them all trumpets and start a band.
Profile Image for Katie.
2,649 reviews143 followers
February 6, 2016
Somehow I missed this one growing up! Sadly, I think this is one of those times where that made a difference. I wasn't as willing to go with the implausible parts of a story that seems set in the real world. I wasn't sure I wanted to root for Louis and Serena. I am not sure I buy their love story!

And I didn't like .
Profile Image for Katja Labonté.
2,278 reviews130 followers
September 23, 2021
4.5 stars. This book was full of humour and beauty in the form of nature. The old cob is hilarious (especially when his wife adds her two cents) and there are many other funny scenes, including the school one and the music store! ;) There are a few euphemisms I would not personally use; also a mention of Nature “gives cygnets a shell-breaking tooth” and a statement that “God failed to give Louis a voice.” However, I have always enjoyed this book and so did my younger siblings.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,841 reviews

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