One day on a Canadian lake, a cob (male swan) and a pen (female swan) are saved by a boy named Sam Beaver from a fox. Sam is allowed to watch the swans' cygnets (baby swans) hatch, and it is discovered that one of them is mute. Instead of chirping to greet him, the mute cygnet pulls Sam's shoelace. [[CutenessProximity Awww.]] Thus begins an OddFriendship between swan and boy.

The story focuses on the swan, named Louie, and his efforts to overcome his handicap. Sam takes Louie to school so the bird can learn to read and write, and Louie's father steals a brass trumpet to give his son a voice. Louie feels guilty about the theft, so at Sam's suggestion he takes several jobs across America to pay for the trumpet. Adventures are had by all.

In 2001, an animated [[TheFilmOfTheBook film adaptation]] was released by Richard Rich (the director of ''WesternAnimation/TheSwanPrincess'').

Compare to E.B. White's more famous novel, ''Literature/CharlottesWeb''.
!!! This work provides examples of:

* AdaptationalAngstUpgrade: Louie doesn't interact much with his swan peers in the novel. In the animated adaptation, he has a case of AllOfTheOtherReindeer because his peers (sans his family and Serena) find him weird that he's mute.
* AdaptationalHeroism: In the novel, Serena [[AllOfTheOtherReindeer refuses to interact with Louie]] because of his disability, and Louie wins her over simply by revealing that he can play the trumpet. In the film, Serena is much more sympathetic to Louie and a {{jerkass}} rival named Boyd is added instead.
* AllOfTheOtherReindeer: Due to LostInTranslation. Louie is mute, and Serena can't read, so his attempts to talk to her fall flat and she assumes he's not interested in her.
* AmazingTechnicolorWildlife: To a lesser extent. In the film a lot of swans have some additional color on their feathers besides white. For instance, Louie has yellow, his sisters have peach pink and green, and Boyd has bright red.
* AmplifiedAnimalAptitude: Louie and others. When his father breaks into a shop to steal the trumpet, he flies away feeling guilty for the crime.
* AnimalTalk
* AwardBaitSong: Music/KenyaHathaway's "Touch the Sky" from the film.
* BabiesEverAfter
* TheBully: Boyd in the film.
* ConspicuousCG: In the film.
* ContrivedCoincidence: Serena just happens to get blown by storm all the way to the Philadelphia zoo.
* DisabilitySuperpower: Because he is mute, Louie learns to read and write English, skills the other swans do not possess.
* DisneyDeath: Louie and his dad fly to the music store to pay for the stolen trumpet and smashed window. Unfortunately, [[spoiler:the store owner thinks they're trying to steal from him and grabs a shot gun and fires it at Louie's dad, who falls the ground, wounded and seemingly dies. After the misunderstanding is cleared up, the music owner [[MyGodWhatHaveIDone instantly regrets what he just did.]] However, as an ambulance arrives to carry Louie's dad away, they discover that he's unharmed, and Dad promptly revives! Turns out the bullet missed Louie's dad, and he simply fainted from trauma. The music store owner then decides to use the money to not only pay for the trumpet and the damages to his shop, but also to preserve all Trumpeter Swans.]]
* DistantFinale: Sam is 11 in the beginning and 20 by the end of the novel. Averted in the film, which ends with him still a kid.
* EdutainmentShow: Like ''Literature/MobyDick'' for kids, but with swans instead of whales.
* FatBastard: Monty, Louie's con-artist agent in the film, who takes advantage of Louie's skills and uses him for his own selfish gain.
* FeatherFingers: Played straight in the [[TheFilmOfTheBook film adaptation]], but averted in the novel, where Louie uses his foot instead. At one point he even asks Sam to cut the webbing between his toes so he can use the valves more easily -- the narrative stresses that this is painless, though it does make his swimming stroke a bit weaker).
* FunnyAnimalAnatomy: The book doesn't exactly say how Louie, who has no lips, can play a trumpet (though it is at least mentioned that it takes him a while to figure out for himself).
** It's [[HandWave Hand Waved]] in the book as saying he uses his tongue and the softer parts of the bill. Swan tongues can be curled and have rough edges, though whether it could actually be curled enough to form a seal on the mouthpiece is [[MST3KMantra probably something best not thought about too closely]].
* GeniusBruiser: Not only is Louie pretty smart for an animal (being able to read and write English, not to mention figuring out and playing a musical instrument), but according to the novel, a trumpeter swan can swat you with the force of a baseball bat. (That's absolutely TruthInTelevision, though real Trumpeters rarely attack with their fragile wings, preferring to use their serrated bill. You ''do not'' want to get bitten by a Trumpeter). Louie doesn't hesitate to use every natural weapon at his disposal to defend Serena from the Philadelphia zookeepers (who want to amputate part of her wings and render her permanently flightless).
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: In the film, Louie holds a bottle and thinks "This pound water is kind of fizzy."
* {{Gonk}}: The Big City Agent.
* GreenAesop: E.B. White sneaks a few in there.
* GrudgingThankYou: Averted. Applegate is more than happy to be saved by a "stupid dirty bird". He still doesn't care for birds, though.
* HaveAGayOldTime: Allow yourself a free snicker when Serena hears Louie's trumpet and thinks "What a gay bird!"
** A somewhat more innocent example happens in-universe. Louie's father has to explain to him that he meant "mute" when he said "dumb," reassuring Louie that he doesn't regard his son as stupid.
* LargeHam: Louie's father in the animated adaptation--voiced by Creator/JasonAlexander.
* LostInTranslation: Louie initially tries to communicate with Serena with his chalk and slate. Unfortunately, Serena can't read.
* MeaningfulName: Louis plays a trumpet, like a certain other [[Music/LouisArmstrong jazz musician]]. This is lampshaded in the book, when a boy says he'll name him Louie after said musician, only for the swan to write on his chalkboard "That actually is my name."
** MusicalThemeNaming / NamedAfterSomebodyFamous: His sisters in the film, Ella and Billie, also share names with musicians: Msuic/EllaFitzgerald and Music/BillieHoliday, respectively.
* TheNapoleon: Boyd and the agent.
* OddFriendship
* PoliticallyIncorrectVillain: Boyd's character plays up the AllOfTheOtherReindeer aspect from the novel, [[ConflictBall as to be expected]].
* PollyWantsAMicrophone: Louie with his chalkboard.
* RaceLift: In the book, Sam Beaver is described as having black hair and dark eyes like a Native American, though whether he has any actual Native American blood isn't mentioned. In the film, he's a generic brown-haired, blue-eyed white kid.
* TheRival: Boyd in the film.
* SatelliteLoveInterest: We never learn anything about Serena other than that she wasn't interested in returning Louie's feelings for her until she saw how well he could play the trumpet.
* SesquipedalianLoquaciousness: Occasionally Sam or another human character will stop and explain what a certain word means.
* ShoutOut: In the film, there are twin blonde pens who fawn over Boyd much like [[Disney/BeautyAndTheBeast the Bimbettes fawn over Gaston]].
* SingleWomanSeeksGoodMan: In the film, Serena prefers NiceGuy Louis over {{jerkass}} Boyd.
* SpiritualSuccessor: The book could be considered one to ''Literature/CharlottesWeb'' (though [[LighterAndSofter without]] the earlier book's [[DeathByNewberyMedal heavier themes]]), while the film could be considered one to ''WesternAnimation/HappyFeet''.
* StealthPun: Louie's species is a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trumpeter_Swan Trumpeter Swan]], but due to his condition you could also say he's a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mute_Swan "Mute" Swan]].
* SummerCampy: Camp Kookooskoos.
* SwanBoats: Louis at one point gets a job on the real life Swan Boats in Boston.
* TalkingAnimal: Subverted with Louis, who can't talk, but can read and write. Played straight with all the other animals (at least when humans aren't around).
* TheVoiceless: Louie of course. To help the audience understand how mute Louie thinks and feels, the animated adaptation has Louie "talking" through his thoughts--courtesy of Creator/DeeBradleyBaker.