Oct 25, 2009

Winter Fantasy Land

posted by Ms. Kate

As Winter approaches, my family gets really excited. Besides chopping wood, clearing the yard and pulling out our wool, we're searching for a great fantasy series to read aloud during the long, dark nights. We've devoured a couple great ones over the years including Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials and the Earthsea series by Ursula LeGuin. I should mention that my "family" right now consists of me and my partner. We're both in our late twenties and we both love to read and listen to "children's" fantasy.

What LeGuin and Pullman have in common is that they are both excellent writers. Many children's authors adopt a trite tone in an attempt to engage young readers. These two write in a way that is appropriate for pre-teens to adults: complex, moving and intelligent. Both series moved me to tears, not just for their emotional plots but because the writing is so clear.

Pullman's three-part series begins with a quote from John Milton's Paradise Lost, an English classic and a tough read for any age. Pullman takes readers on the epic, world-changing adventure of Lyra, an authentic fiesty and clever pre-teen girl, as she struggles and champions to resurrect "paradise lost." Up against horrific forces of evil that seek to control and diminish the souls of all people, Lyra is pushed to her limits again and again. She is destined to affirm free will, love and life through her actions.

LeGuin is a prolific writer (Jennie once had a good laugh when I told her I wanted to read everything she'd written) and an award winner. The Earthsea books are considered some of her best. In them, readers follow the life of Ged, a legendary wizard, and the people he meets. LeGuin writes with a beautiful pace, so that when Ged spends several months at sea searching and waiting, the reader senses the slow drift of the boat and the long lost days. It is never boring. In the beginning, Ged is a headstrong boy. Over the course of six books, he ages into a wise humble man. One of my favorite books in the series, Tehanu, closely explores the life of the archipelago women.

These books are wonderful winter reading. They're even better shared aloud. You'll grow tense in anticipation--because someone has to get sleepy first, and sometimes it's a challenge to schedule reading time--and you'll love sharing a great, great story with someone you love.

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