When we started our book club, we were clear to say that the expectation is NOT to love every book we read. Rather, the expectation is that we read books that stretch and push us to encounter new genres, styles of writing, character, topics, and themes. If we love them, great. If not, there’s still so much value in the experience.
Well, this month’s book definitely stretched us! The Book of Three, the first book in a high fantasy series by American author, Lloyd Alexander, was not a hit with our group!
Maybe it was the high fantasy genre. Maybe it was because we have so many Lord of the Rings fans in our group who thought Tolkein’s storyline and characters were better that Lloyd Alexander’s. Maybe it was that our group of boys is graduating out of middle grade novels and getting used to more complicated storylines and writing styles. Maybe it’s that the boys aren’t used to reading books written in 1964, or that the Disney animated film version of the series, “The Black Cauldron”, a commercial disaster (and for good reason) didn’t entice the boys. Maybe it’s that no one in our group had personal connections or interests in Welsh mythology.
Whatever the case, our group’s ratings of this book averaged, on a scale of 1-5 (with 1 representing “Worst book ever” and 5 being “Best book ever), a solid 2.5, the lowest a book has ever been rated!
Despite the lack of love for this book, we ended up having a great discussion about high fantasy vs low fantasy and how about fantasy books, while they might seem so “other worldly”, often speak such truth into and about the world in which we live.
In the Author’s Note, Alexander writes: “The chronicle of Prydain is a fantasy. Such things never happen in real life. Or do they? Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what we can do. Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart.”
We talked about quests/adventures in books (and what makes for good quests…we have cultivated quite the opinionated group of readers!), about how Taran changed and grew more mature as a result of his adventures and how his appreciation for home grew by the end of it (that was my favorite part!), and about what a fun character Gurgi was.
“Munchings and crunchings” might just be our favorite line from the book!
We learned that Lloyd Alexander started his writing career by writing books for adults. He wasn’t very successful so he tried writing for children. It was, he said, “the most creative and liberating experience of my life. In books for young people, I was able to express my own deepest feelings far more than I could ever do in writing for adults.” Yeah for children’s and young adult literature!