The Electric Commentary

Monday, July 25, 2005

Kid Lit

Recently Harry Potter prompted some discussion of some of the other (some would say superior) kid lit enjoyed by bloggers in their youth. Both Paul Brewer and Oscar Madison have a soft spot for the The Prydain Chronicles (some may know of this series from the truly terrible Disney adaptation of The Black Cauldron). I also enjoyed this series, although I initially found it frustrating because Taran, the protagonist, lacks any supernatural power, strength, or even the ability to weave a decent blanket. He tries, but he is largely an observer to great events rather than an active participant. He plays his part, but he never makes the big play, so to speak.

While I liked the series in general, Taran occasionally failed in another capacity. I think he's supposed to relate to the average person, but he often seems too stupid to live up to those mild expectations. That being said, if you stick with the kid he does prove to have one remarkable quality about him, and the world would be a better place if more people shared said trait. Saying anymore would spoil too much.

I also enjoyed The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. Some of the heroes in this series have extraordinary powers, some do not, but everyone has to contribute to succeed. It draws heavily on Gaelic and Arthurian legend and contains some genuinely inspired writing. And the evil is genuinely evil.

The Chronicles of Narnia had their moments. The classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is quite good, as are the closely related Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but C.S. Lewis lost me a bit with The Last Battle, although I have an inkling that that was part of his point.

Part of what sparked this conversation on Oscar's blog was why Harry Potter appeals to childless adults. I think I have an answer. It is reasonably respectable to be seen reading it. The English boarding school system on display in the books is reminiscent of college, and most people feel a great deal of fondness and nostalgia for their college days (or, failing that, the college days of those rowdy kids in Delta House). It contains action sequences, rarely will you become bored with the dialogue, and the endings rarely fall into the "happily ever after" model, so anything can and does happen.

Many people are also crazy about Holes by Louis Sachar, which weaves several plot lines into a beautifully imagined finale.

I also really liked Interstellar Pig by William Sleator, but I'll leave that for another time.


  • I originally had a link to Disney's The Black Cauldron, but I couldn't bear to leave it in my post.

    Taran is pretty thick-headed at times--especially in the first book--but I don't think that he's so much stupid as naive in those instances. Also, he's capable of realizing that he's been thick-headed and then learning from his mistakes.

    I liked the Narnia books as a kid, too, though they're uneven in quality. I would rank The Silver Chair along with Wardrobe and Dawn Treader (and above Caspian). On the other hand, The Magician's Nephw is awful. I found the theologizing heavy-handed, especially in The Last Battle.

    I loved the movie version of Holes--I'll have to read the book sometime.

    By Blogger PRB, at 8:59 AM  

  • Taran definitely improves, and he was probably just naive, I just remember thinking that I would have done things differently, and I was just as naive.

    I agree completely on the Narnia books. When he get's into theologizing it's just weird.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 10:53 AM  

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