The Trumpet of the Swan begins in Canada, where a boy named Sam Beaver and his father are camping. Fascinated by nature, Sam discovers a family of trumpeter swans and manages to see their newly hatched cygnets. One of the cygnets, named “Louis,” has a problem: he can’t honk or speak. Although Louis survives with his disability for years, it becomes very troublesome when he falls in love with a beautiful female swan, Serena.
Unable to inform her of his romantic intentions, Louis asks his father for help. Louis’ father boldly flies to the nearest town and steals a trumpet from a music store. Louis is touched by this act of love despite his father’s obviously wounded honor and pride, and he himself is determined to pay back his father’s debt. Seeking Sam Beaver’s help in Montana, Louis goes to school to be “educated” in academics and also learns how to play the trumpet. When he is successfully hired for his first job, Louis gradually builds up a brilliant musical career.
The Trumpet of the Swan is different from E.B. White’s previous novels for children. It has a happy ending, unlike its predecessors, and the author chose to only personify trumpeter swans and not any other animals. Like Stuart Little, Louis’ intelligence and abilities are surprising but not shocking to the human world. The level of Sam’s comfort and ease among animals, as well as the strength of his communication with them, establish his character to be very similar in disposition to the character of Fern in Charlotte’s Web.
The author again emphasizes the importance of being a good listener, which is a little ironic in Louis’ case. Honesty and loyalty are the rare virtues that are depicted through the characters of Sam and the trumpeter swans. Mathematics and vocabulary are the chosen academic subjects quietly ridiculed in the class discussions that Sam and Louis participate in. Louis’ father is shown to be proud and overly dramatic in his speech and actions, but his honor is demonstrated when out of love he steals the trumpet so Louis can have a voice among swans. In spite of his principles, Louis’ father places first in his heart his devotion and loyalty to his family. Louis also proves himself to be a noble character when he takes it upon himself to earn money by labor to pay back his debt. Love for music and the written language are presented by White in the progress of Louis’ career.
Original review: Part 3: The masterpieces of E.B. White, Examiner.com