In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Guest blogger: Hedgehogs and Mice

Dear Aunt Debbie,

Helen Oxenbury's illustrations are so joyful!  We're Going on a Bear Hunt has inspired a number of happy moments of charging forward in our family, too.

As I charge on with my portfolios, here's our regular guest blogger Holly, mother of Eleanor's good friend Ian, on their current adventure reading:

I prefer to wait out a series -- tv, movie or book -- until it is complete and then have a wonderful binge. You would think I would have learned from the rollercoaster of emotions I feel toward George RR Martin not to dabble with unfinished series again, but we seem to have fallen for two children's series which have left us uncertain about the fates of several small mammals we've become attached to.

The first series is The Six Crowns by Allan Jones, illustrated by Gary Chalk. I was dubious at first because the verse that describes the titular six crowns is really lame: 
Six are they, the Badgers' crowns.
If power ye seek, they must be found.
Crystal, iron, and flaming fire --
Gather them, if ye desire.
Ice and wood and carven stone --
The power they give
Is yours

However, once you work out the bizarre cosmology of the Sundered Lands (islands floating in air, Six Crowns of the Badgers of Power) it becomes a very fun, never a dull moment adventure quest led by a fabulously morally questionable but terrifically gutsy girl hedgehog, Esmeralda, and the reluctant homebody hero hedgehog, Trundle. Here's how she gets him what she has decided is his hero's sword:
Esmeralda came to a skidding halt, leaning back and hefting the cobblestone. She let it fly. There was a chime and clash of smashing glass, and almost before Trundle knew what was going on, she had reached in through the broken window of Honesty Skanks Gold Star Pawnshop and had grabbed hold of the sword. ... Esmeralda pushed the sword into Trundle's hands "I should have thought of this from the start! It would have saved us a lot of bother!"
There are really nasty pirates and lots of fighting and explosions. I wouldn't have thought that Ian would be able to take the scariness level but we zoomed through all three of the series that are available so far. Maybe when hedgehogs are in danger it's less of a deal breaker?
Our family fell for another furry hero in the book, The Song of the Winns: The Secret of the Ginger Mice by Frances Watts. The first book is all we can find, although it seems like the others may have come out in Australia.
The main characters are four young mice living in a world where due to a complex political backstory they find that they are sought by the Queen. The kids are allied with an underground resistance movement, FIG (Free and Independent Gerander) which would likely lead to some interesting discussions of real life politics in an older child than Ian.  What gripped him was the Huck Finn feel of the book -- two of the mice actually escape down a river on a raft. On the journey you feel you actually get to know each character and watch their relationships to each other develop. So often in kid's adventure books I find I have to differentiate the characters myself by giving one a funny voice. Even the villians are complex and interesting. This is a book I looked forward to reading every night and which Ian agreed with us upon. I look forward to Book Two and Three as well!

And love from me,


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