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Top 100 Children’s Novels #68: The High King by Lloyd Alexander

HighKing 200x300 Top 100 Childrens Novels #68: The High King by Lloyd Alexander#68 The High King by Lloyd Alexander (1968)
28 points

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.

And talk about a range of covers!

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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!

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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.

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Elizabeth Bird About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently New York Public Library's Youth Materials Collections Specialist. 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 NYPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.

Comments

  1. ChrisinNY says:

    “Just wait until you see Jody’s Madeleine L’Engles!”
    Spoiler alert. ;) (Like we didn’t already know….)

  2. Anne says:

    This has been one of my favorite series since my own childhood. Glad to see that other people agree too. Now if only someone would check it out from my library!

  3. Tom Angleberger says:

    This is odd… Is this the only book from the series to make the list? A great book, of course, but hardly the best of the series…

    (I’m feeling serious deja vu… Did we have this discussion last time?)

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Well we’re counting up from 100. This is the first to appear so far. If there are others they’ll be higher on the list. Are there others? Mum’s the word . . .

  4. Karen Maurer says:

    Lloyd Alexander is the measure by which all other children’s fantasy authors are judged. Just saying!

  5. DaNae says:

    I switched from last time. Last time I voted for the High King. It is such a satisfactory ending to the series. This time around in a vote for the entire series I switched to THE BOOK OF THREE. My favorite, of course, is TARAN WANDERER. Let’s all go weave a coat and spin a pot.

  6. Louise says:

    Taran Wanderer is still my favorite of the Prydain Chronicles, but this one – well, had any part of it gone any different way, the Chronicles as a whole wouldn’t have been anywhere near so satisfying or bittersweet. Lloyd Alexander is my very favorite writer of all time. Not enough people know about his wonderful, wonderful books.