Many generations of young readers have enjoyed The White Stag because it emphasizes drama and conflict and moves very rapidly. In fewer than one hundred pages, Seredy covers about a hundred years at a gallop. The Huns are presented as harsh and violent, but as having become so from trying to escape hardship. Nimrod worries about the welfare of his tribe, and Bendeguz’s loss of his beloved wife and consequent rearing of Attila without compassion teaches a juvenile audience that adults may be harsh because they have been hurt and disappointed by life.

Although Attila is notorious in Europe as an invader and destroyer, Seredy gives little idea of what his victims suffered. Historians agree that Attila was militarily successful primarily because the peoples that he conquered were weak and unorganized. Regardless, the passages that discuss war are told vividly but with an eagle’s-eye view, as it were. Seredy uses sweeping verbs and calls upon such heroic imagery as black horses and swinging swords. She describes the warriors’ laughter and songs, which makes the battles seem almost like games. The author depersonalizes the victims of the Huns by calling them “the enemy,” and she shows them scampering for shelter rather than being killed. She writes that the Huns left such destruction in their wake as smoking ruins and desolate fields, but young readers who have no real-life referent for such things may not visualize the real human cost of war. The passages describing battles...

(The entire section is 615 words.)