Sunday, January 27, 2008


I should explain first that my niece and nephew are, respectively, six and five years old. I have already given them hundreds of books and have many more books already purchased for them. However, I read each book to be certain it is appropriate. Conclusion: I read a lot more children's literature than most adults who are not parents.

Cornelia Funke:
In Dragon Rider, the dragons in a valley somewhere in the British Isles have been warned that the humans are coming into their valley to build. One silver dragon, Firedrake, and a brownie named Sorrel set out to find the legendary "Rim of Heaven" where dragons can live in peace. They are assisted in their quest by a rat who draws maps of the world. Along the way, Firedrake and Sorrel meet a human named Ben, a homunculus named Twigleg, four dwarfs, a very unusual archaeologist, and some monks. They also encounter, Nettlebrand, a giant golden dragon who wants to destroy all other dragons. But is Nettlebrand really a dragon? This book would be particularly good for grades 4 - 8.

Christopher Paolini:
In the first book, Eragon, young Eragon finds a mysterious blue stone in the forested mountains above his home in Aagaesia. Along with his blue dragon, Saphira, Eragon is stumbling about because things are happening to him which he does not understand. His inner goodness and common sense enable him to muddle through and he has some help from a couple of humans and some dwarfs. In the second book, Eldest, the dwarfs, elves, humans, Eragon, and Saphira have joined forces against evil. Eragon and Saphira have begun training to understand and improve their skills. A new, red dragon makes an appearance. I've been told that in the third book a golden dragon will appear. It has just been announced that the third book, Brisingr, will be available on September 20, 2008. Originally planned as a trilogy, Paolini has recently decided that there will be four books in his Inheritance Cycle.

John Beachem:
Storms of Vengeance is John's first novel and I've been told that it is part of a series of 8 to 10 books. There is a murder mystery to be solved. Who did it and why? There is a mythical Lorradda Stone to locate. There are three parallel stories as we follow the actions of three different groups of people. There are also some ogres, two elves, several sorcerers, a troll, and one very impressive river monster. One reason that young people gave for liking Harry Potter was the detail in the stories. They will find plenty of detail here as well.

David Eddings:
There are three stories in Volume I of The Belgariad: Pawn of Prophecy, Queen of Sorcery, and Magician's Gambit. Volume II of The Belgariad has two stories: Castle of Wizardry and Enchanters' End Gambit. If you are looking for grand adventure and plenty of detail it is here. Some may object to the slow progression and limited action of this tale. A sorcerer and his daughter, a sorceress, have gathered together a group of individuals to fight evil. It seems that the particular make-up for this group is necessary based upon an ancient prophecy. The group includes: the Nimble Thief, the Man with Two Lives, the Blind Man, the Dreadful Bear, the Knight Protector, the Horse Lord, the Bowman, the Queen of the World, and the Mother of the Race that Died. A young boy named Garion, who was raised by his Aunt Pol, is caught up in all of this, though he doesn't know why. But then, is she really his Aunt? There is so much detail that I have not as yet confirmed there are no mistakes in the mapping of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed The Belgariad and look forward to reading the sequel, The Mallorean.

Ken Follett:
The Pillars of the Earth was written many years ago, but is currently on the bestseller lists for two reasons. First, the sequel set 200 years later has recently been released and Oprah has placed Pillars on her book list. The Pillars of the Earth is a historical fiction set in the Middle Ages. It gives a very realistic portrayal of life at that time. It also describes the conflict between Church and Crown as well as the struggle over the succession to the English throne. The detailed descriptions of Cathedral building would make David Macaulay proud. I strongly encourage any high school or college student studying World History/Western Civilizations to read this book. It is an extremely impressive work. Having said that, I did not like this book. I don't want to go into detail about my reasons because I don't want to ruin the ending. I will say only that I truly disliked William. He is a vile, despicable character. I will also add that, I suspect a higher percentage of men than women will like this book, though all should be impressed.