Monday, June 19, 2006

My Fantasy Quest

In my quest to Make Mississippi Read, I wanted to explore a genre of the unfamiliar. I’ve read the Harry Potters and have tried to promote read-a-likes, but you can’t fool children. They know when you haven’t read a book. So, on special assignment and because this is a genre bookstores carry, I listened to fantasy on CD including Eragon by Christopher Paolini
A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Grim Grotto by Lemony Snicket and a book by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson titled Peter and the Starcatchers. I also read The Thief Lord by Funke and the new book Buried Fire by Jonathan Stroud.

This genre is not only fun but also addictive. I find it utterly amazing how writers dream up these new worlds. Along with new lands, they create outrageous names and unheard of creatures. They truly force their reader to take on the whole package that is their story or put it down. They present us with their own vocabulary which you must learn or face further chapters of confusion. This could be the reason many begin in a reality setting then fall through the infamous rabbit hole to a new world below.

These books pack excitement that keeps the pages turning. Many are full of end-of-the-chapter cliff hangers that yell at you to hold it; bathroom break later. The plot driven device is “good versus evil” and the hero is usually a child. Reader’s can really relate to the hero: a kid about their age, without all the answers, and willing to try stupidly brave acts. By sheer grit and determination this hero saves the fantasy world or conquers the evil that controls it. These books empower the child reader to take the steps necessary to become the hero.

Wherever there are children reading good fantasy, there will be controversy. One doesn’t occur without the other. I once had a whole family (5 kids ages 4-12) refuse to participate in our Summer Reading Program because the theme was “Fantasy Quest.” It is with heavy heart you listen to their reasons, present yours, and know that compromise is highly unlikely. Funny, they want their children to believe in an invisible force called God, but are afraid they will also believe in a fantasy world filled with witches and dragons. Let’s try trusting the kids to know the difference and act accordingly.