Perhaps I should make clear my bias from the start: I love Michael Foreman's illustrations, but here he has outdone himself.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a story set in King Arthur's time. One Christmas a green knight challenges the knights of the round table to a beheading game. Sir Gawain takes up the challenge and lops the green knight's head off. Nonplussed the knight rides away and Gawain must come to him in a year's time to bear the green knight's blow. Certain death, surely.
On his travels to find the green knight, Sir Gawain finds a castle where he is welcome by the castellan and invited to play a game. Both men will exchange their findings of the day. The lord goes out hunting, while back home his wife tries to seduce Sir Gawain. Of course, there is more to this game of hunting and seduction than meets the eye.
Can Gawain remain triumphant?
Foreman's illustrations bring to life the story with great vividness. His watercolours of the lady of the castle are superb and not without a certain erotic charge, a difficult thing as this is essentially a children's book. But Foreman never crosses the line and his pictures remain those of a children's world, albeit with subtle (and very cleanly) undertones.
Morpurgo's re-telling is close to the original in plot and language, with some nice touches (like Gawain following the swans north), and some puzzling ones (the connection between the green band and the order of the garter is more than tenuous).
Quite apart from the illustrations the book is lavishly done with borders of leaves on each page and prominent initials. It has the feel of a medieval manuscript to it.
A must have, if you (or your children) are in any way interested in the knights of the round table.