However, I didn't regret putting the book down because another was waiting for me. It is a novel that I'd originally planned read later this summer when we're traveling, but the author has hosted a competition for a great blog post review and I succumbed to the irresistible temptation.... That, and the fact that I don't think I could have waited three more weeks to read it!
The Monster in the Hollows, the third segment of The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson, who is also a talented singer/songwriter. Once again, I was delving into the junior fiction fantasy realm (personally, I think the majority of quality stories are in junior fiction!), but based on the first two books in the series I had a feeling that this experience would be more than just "a fun read."
And it was. No question.
Last fall when I plunged into the first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, it was well worth the adventure, though I admit that initially I wasn't sure if the book would rank among favorites. I liked the humor, and there was something greatly appealing about a complete work of fiction that had footnotes referencing fantastical historic instances and lofty-sounding texts as if we should all be able to find them at our local library. But at first the book didn't seem quite serious enough with its lizard-like "Fangs of Dang," despite the main characters' fears of the Black Carriage which periodically appeared to carry children away to the realms of Gnag the Nameless. As the story unfolded, however, layers were revealed, and suddenly it was so much more than a funny story. The characters fleshed out and grew, the plot flipped and turned and surprised, and by the end of the book I was hooked. The second book, North! Or Be Eaten, was even better, and by the time The Monster in the Hollows came out last month I knew this was one of those series we'd want on our own shelves. (And it is now--or it would be if I didn't keep lending it out to friends :) .)
So what is it about a book whose protagonist is a twelve-year-old boy that hooks a mom of young kids (kids so young that it will probably be another year before they're able to enjoy the stories)? I've come up with my top nine reasons....
- There is nothing like escaping from a world of laundry and dishes into a land where the humdrum of daily life is punctuated by threats of toothy cows (and worse).
- You discover that your worst fears for your children's safety and well-being are pretty unfounded in the grand scheme of things. After all, they aren't likely to meet a cloven, or be captured by Stranders, or taken by the Black Carriage, etc.
- You find yourself standing taller, because you feel that in some small way you are as gracious and queenly in your children's eyes as the mom in these stories (and she's not perfect; she's just a cool mom!).
- When you see your neighbor's overgrown puppy chewing everything in sight it crosses your mind that having a family dog might not be such a bad idea after all.... (NOTE: This is one of the dangers of reading these books!)
- When your kids start squabbling, you smile because you know that down deep they really love each other and will stick up for each other, just like the Igiby children--and you have the chance to help guide them in that.
- You may have a hard time putting the book down, but you know that you will be well-satisfied when you finish each book, because even though certain themes still need to be resolved, the main plot of each book has been neatly wrapped up. There's no mess left at the end that will nag you and interrupt your day until the next book comes out!
- There are songs out there worth singing, drawings worth sketching, stories worth telling, and you get the opportunity to hand them on to your own kids.
- Even though the books are set in a different world, the people are real with feelings and internal struggles to which you can relate (and as a result, you see new ways you can handle your own).
- No matter how hard things get, no matter what we suffer, God has His hand on each of us. He wants to change "something twisted into a flourish" and take something "bent and make it beautiful" (The Monster in the Hollows, p. 205), and He can do that with our lives when we let Him.