Just how many alternative worlds do you think our kids can live in … even they’re vicariously lived … through books? Quite a few, it would seem — fantasy world books are so “in” and never have there been so many good reads as have been published in recent times. Forerunners like the Chronicles of Narnia actually pale by comparison with what’s out there today. One thing’s for sure, there’s no dearth of alternative worlds for kids to escape to … should they find themselves stressed by “entrance exam hell”. Here’s a run-down of some of those reads that were “hits” for us:
1) “Inkheart” by Cornelia Funke (translated from German)
Haven’t you ever wished you could enter the real world of books? But this book is based on the premise, that you could READ the book’s characters into your world of reality! What adventures follow the bookbinder and his 12 year old daughter which take them throughout Europe. For those never get enough of their favourite characters, you’ll pleased to know the book has sequels: “Inkspell” and “Inkdeath”. Read the synopsis at Wikipedia.
2) Books by Artemis Fowl.
“Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox” is just out in bookstores. This series has taken our household by storm, un-put-down-able and fast-paced. The fairies in the book aren’t Twinkle-bell like at all, they sound like the cast from Star Trek. Street-smart characters. Easy to read out loud with short sentences that are colloquial sounding. Action and humour, cracking humour. Boys will like this. This series will make readers out of your reluctant readers at home.
3) “Brisingr” by Christopher Paolini, the homeschooled boy who became an author by self-publishing online. Brisingr is just out – the last book in the trilogy called the Inheritance Chronicles. This is what we are half way through. Better book 2 and as good as book 1 so far. What grabs us about this series, is that it isn’t merely another book about dragons. It does much better. It works because the book explores the deep bond and emotions between boy-dragon-rider and dragon – and they come across the book well. It also is quite phenomenal in that it explores the relations between the worlds of the dwarves, elves, humans and other beings like Urgals in a fashion worthy of the “Lord of the Rings” stature.
4) “Tunnels” by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams
Read the Payal Kapadia’s solid review for Japan Times here which has this to say,
“This offbeat adventure story conjures up a vivid picture of an underground civilization, so realistically imagined that it seems almost possible. Most terrifying of all are the Styx — tall, thin men who dress identically, speak in conspiratorial whispers …… Pale-faced men in black coats and thick dark glasses; a hero who goes underground; torture chambers and interrogation rooms — this could be the stuff of spy fiction.”
Also serial. The book “Deeper” follows.
5) Last but not least, are Robert Pullman’s “Dark Materials” trilogy omnibus combining “The Golden Compass”, “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass”.
Lyra is the kind of character with gumption that every kid loves to read about. The adventures into the North Pole, polar bears, shamans, hot air balloons, the multi-layers of alternative worlds … what’s there not to love about these book?
The above were all “hits” for us. But there was one “miss” for us. And that’s “Stoneheart” trilogy by Charlie Fletcher.
At least, we really tried. We were flummoxed because of the cockney accent that we had difficulty reading and making out the meanings, and that we had to maintain throughout Book 1 (worse than a Dickens novel), and the second reason being that it was hard to find anything to like about the main boy-protagonist of the book, having waded through half the book. Shame really, the plot of the book seemed really interesting, a kind of Night Museum with a boy with an impossible puzzle-cum-challenge to solve. The book might work for some, so don’t be put off by this partial reviewer.
Finishing off my reviews here, I just want to add that these days it seems to me, kiddy books aren’t really that kiddy anymore. And as book formulas go, they sure have it all … the action, humour, character (heroes, villains), relationships, breathtaking scenery, plot twists, the romance and darkness … lots and lots of the latter. And that’s why the whole family enjoys them!