How Reading The Lord of the Rings Changed My Life (Classic Remarks)

Classic Remarks

WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?

Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!

You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.

(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)

THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:

WHAT IS A CLASSIC THAT HAS CHANGED YOUR LIFE?

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How Reading The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien Changed My Life

I’m sure I’ve talked about this on the blog before, so this story may be familiar to some readers, but when I think about a classic, or simply any book, that changed my life there is only one that immediately comes to mind: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. There are other books I’ve liked and have read over and over, ones that have made me think about myself and the world in new ways, but in terms of actual, concrete changes to my life, The Lord the Rings is the only book that makes the cut.

I first read The Lord of the Rings in sixth grade, devouring the entire story in four days. From there, I dove into Tolkien scholarship (I was a weird kid, ok?) and started learning more about Tolkien’s academic background and his literary influences. Soon I was reading medieval literature like Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and I loved that, too.

When I went to college, I took far more pre-1800 literature classes than the department intended (but it was allowed by the rules), and afterwards I entered an English literature PhD program, intending to specialize in medieval literature and become a professor (like Tolkien!). I eventually decided to leave the PhD program with my master’s degree, due to reasons largely related to academia as an institution and not due to any lack of love of the subject, so unfortunately I’m not going to live the dream of teaching the next generation of college students to think medieval romances are cool and Chaucer is actually readable if you try. However, my point is that my entire academic career (and other facets of my life that spun off from that, like whom I have been able to network with and what non-academic jobs I’ve gotten because of those networks) was influenced by the fact that I read The Lord of the Rings in sixth grade.

Briana

The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung (ARC Review)

The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung

Information

Goodreads: The Boys in the Back Row
Series: None
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
Published: October 6, 2020

Summary

Matt and Eric are best friends, but now Eric is moving away. Before he goes, the boys plan an epic last adventure. During the annual marching band competition at an amusement park, they will sneak away to a comic con to get their favorite comic signed by the artist. But unexpected complications arise when a bully learns of their plans.

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Review

The Boys in the Back Row is an unabashed homage to male friendship. Focusing on the bond between middle schoolers Matt and Eric, the story celebrates a masculinity strong enough to allow the boys to admit that they care for another, even when the other kids at their school make fun of them. The plot revolves around their final big adventure together–sneaking away from a school function to attend a comic con. But, at its heart, the story is about far more than shared interests or even shared adventures. The love the two have for one another is the real story here–as is their comfort with sharing it.

Books with male friendships can be difficult to find, both in middle grade and YA. So I was thrilled to see The Boys in the Back Row start to fill this gap in the market. In doing so, it also subtly addresses the topic of toxic masculinity, showing how the fear of not fitting in at school causes the other boys to deny their emotions. Lacking a safe place to share their inner selves and fearing the social repercussions if they do, the other boys perform a type of masculinity that degrades women and gay individuals. Some of these kids are obviously the villains of the story–the bullies who make Matt and Eric’s lives a nightmare. But, sadly, a good portion of the school often participates in the bullying either by laughing or standing by idly. These kids–the bystanders–are often the ones who cause Matt, our narrator, the most pain.

The Boys in the Back Row takes a stand against toxic masculinity and apathy by revealing their hurtful effects. Some of the kids escalate their toxic masculinity into physical violence to demonstrate their dominance, but readers can see that much of the harm results from the failure of the other kids to step in, as well as their tacit participation in the bullying cycle by spreading rumors. And, sadly, the book also illustrates how so much bad behavior can go unnoticed even by teachers who have their students’ best interests at heart. The teachers cannot be everywhere, nor hear everything. So student apathy allows bullying to grow unchecked. In this depiction, The Boys in the Back Row feels very, very real.

Ultimately, however, The Boys in the Back Row is not a depressing book. Matt and Eric’s friendship and support for one another proves stronger than any hate and the book ends with a message of love. Readers who have been searching for a book that validates male friendship will want to check out The Boys in the Back Row.

4 stars

This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell, Illustrated by Aurélia Durand

This Book is Anti-Racist

Information

Goodreads: This Book Is Anti-Racist
Series: None
Source: Libary
Published: January 2020

Official Summary

Who are you?
What is your identity?
What is racism?
How do you choose your own path?
How do you stand in solidarity?
How can you hold yourself accountable?

Learn about identities, true histories, and anti-racism work in 20 carefully laid out chapters. Written by anti-bias, anti-racist, educator and activist, Tiffany Jewell, and illustrated by French illustrator Aurélia Durand in kaleidoscopic vibrancy.

This book is written for the young person who doesn’t know how to speak up to the racist adults in their life. For the 14 year old who sees injustice at school and isn’t able to understand the role racism plays in separating them from their friends. For the kid who spends years trying to fit into the dominant culture and loses themselves for a little while. It’s for all of the Black and Brown children who have been harmed (physically and emotionally) because no one stood up for them or they couldn’t stand up for themselves; because the colour of their skin, the texture of their hair, their names made white folx feel scared and threatened.

It is written so children and young adults will feel empowered to stand up to the adults who continue to close doors in their faces. This book will give them the language and ability to understand racism and a drive to undo it. In short, it is for everyone.

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Review

This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell is an accessible introduction to the work of anti-racism, targeted to a teen audience. Easy-to-understand definitions and explanations are paired with journal prompts so readers can begin to articulate to themselves how they view their identity, how they see themselves fitting into society, and how they imagine they can begin to do the work of anti-racism. Aurélia Durand’s bold and colorful artwork is featured on every page, making the book as visually appealing as it is inspirational.

The book is divided into a series of short chapters, making a book about a heavy topic less intimidating. This, combined with Jewell’s personable writing style and her personal anecdotes make the work seem a little like a gift from a good friend, who wants to help readers understand themselves and their world–and give them the courage to make a difference. Positive messages promoting confidence and belonging, as do the beautiful illustrations by Durand. The overall tone is one of optimism and hope. It is clear that Jewell believes that young people matter, and that they can change the world.

Durand’s gorgeous illustrations also deserve a shout-out. They instantly make the book visually engaging, and may be a reason many are attracted to pick up the book from a shelf in the first place. Each page celebrates the beauty, strength, and diversity of Black and Brown people. The visuals are so stunning, I can easily imagine readers wanting prints that they can hang up on their walls.

This Book Is Anti-Racist is a wonderful introductory book. It makes the work of anti-racism accessible, not only to its target teen audience, but also to anyone who wants to learn more. The journal prompts paired with the information help readers understand the importance of self-reflection, while the illustrations celebrate confidence and pride. Certainly a volume educators and librarians will want on the shelves, as well as a book important for anyone wanting to do the work of anti-racism.

4 stars

Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Information

Goodreads: Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl
Series: Mighty Jack #3
Source: Library
Published: 2019

Summary

Jack and Lilly have travelled between worlds and defeated giants. Now the next adventure comes knocking on their door when Zita the Spacegirl arrives with news of an inter-dimensional threat. The giants are ready to wage war and reclaim the Earth. Can the three team up to save the day?

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Review

Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl is a crossover event that brings Ben Hatke’s Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl graphic novel series together. One could consider it book three of Jack’s series or book four of Zita’s. That being said, readers should be very familiar with both series, or all the allusions made in this book will likely go over their heads. I, for instance, have not read the Zita books in years, so the repeated references to her old adventures and former friends got tiresome very quickly. On the whole, however, the book is a fun adventure and a solid addition to Hatke’s work.

The greatest strength of the Mighty Jack books is, in my opinion, how wonderfully they feel like old-school adventures. I used to spend my childhood summers reading books like King Arthur, Robin Hood, and Andrew Lang’s fairy tales, and Ben Hatke’s work makes me think he must have done much the same. The Mighty Jack stories give me that same thrill of heroism and wonder.

Still, I do wish that Hatke would make some changes as the series progresses. At times, I think the books feel like an old-school adventure in part because they feel so resistant to changes that have occurred in the publishing world. For example, the cast of characters has not grown any more diverse over the years. And this book features that tired old trope of the two female leads–Zita and Lilly–meeting each other, and Lilly becoming jealous of Jack’s attention. Really? Did our two strong female leads have to fight over a boy? Did that add anything at all to the story? It doesn’t, and I, like many other women, am tired of seeing female characters pitted against each other as rivals for a boy, when they have so much more to offer.

As an added disappointment, the book leads up to a huge fight between the giants and the Earth, which ends up being laughably anti-climatic. [Don’t read farther if you want to be totally unspoiled!] It almost feels like the author worried either 1) that the book was becoming too long and had to be wrapped up pronto or 2) that the author worried the full-scale epicness promised would actually be too violent and/or devastating to depict in its entirety, so instead he chose to gloss over all that. Option 3 is that the book is really supposed to be a message about the power of love, peace, and words and how they triumph over violence. It’s still a disappointment.

Hardcore fans of Zita and Jack will probably love this crossover, especially the tweens to whom the books are primarily marketed. I loved it, too, but I still cannot overlook its flaws. I hope to see more Mighty Jack books, but I also hope that the cast can become more diverse and that we can throw away tired tropes like females fighting over a boy’s attention.

3 Stars

10 Young Adult Books About Witches

Looking for your next Halloween read, a spooky book for the fall, or just a fun witchy young adult novel? Check out our list of witch book recommendations below!

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Chime by Franny Billingsley

CHIME BY FRANNY BILLINGSLEY

Briony can see the Old Ones that live in the swamp by her house–and so Briony’s stepmother told her she was a witch.  But witches are not welcome in the village, and Briony must work hard to keep her powers secret.

Chime has a unique voice with well-developed plot, romance, and mystery.  A good choice for those seeking a standalone, and a great book to read in contrast with Born Wicked.  Spotswood’s character enjoy and are protective of their magic, while Briony is as suspicious of hers as everyone in her community.  Her struggles bring a new perspective to what it means to be a witch.

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Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

BORN WICKED BY JESSICA SPOTSWOOD

Cate’s mother died when she was thirteen, leaving her to raise her two younger sisters and to protect their secret—that all three of them are witches—from their father and the community.  All seems to be going well until Cate finds her mother’s diary.  The pages reveal that she and her sisters might be the subject of a prophecy, and if they are, they are in much more danger than Cate had ever imagined.

Protagonist Cate goes through a lot in this first installment of the Cahill Witch Chronicles, developing from a whiny teen into a mature one with adult responsibilities and a blossoming romance.  She really grows into her role as the protector of her sisters and their powers and works hard to find safety in an alternative American history where witchcraft is common but unwelcome.

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The Bone Witch

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Official Summary: Tea can raise the dead, but resurrection comes at a price.When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha-one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles and make a powerful choice.

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Truthwitch cover

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

As a Truthwitch who can tell when people are lying and when they are not, Safiya is sought-after by powerful people, and she must fight to keep her freedom even as war approaches the Witchlands.

Truthwitch is an exciting opening to the Witchlands series, introducing readers to characters with varied magic and varied backgrounds. Readers will enjoy the romance and friendships in addition to the powerful magic.

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The Wicked Deep cover

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Each summer, the ghosts of three girls who were drowned for witchcraft return to the town of Sparrow, looking for revenge.

The Wicked Deep promises to be a book full of suspense and mystery. Set in a small coastal town cursed by three witches the residents drowned 200 years ago, the book has hints of magic, secrets, and revenge.

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Flying Witch Vol 1

Flying Witch by Chihiro Ishizuka and Melissa Tanaka (Translator)

Makoto Kowata needs more training to become a full-fledged witch, so she moves to the country to live with her cousins.  But sometimes the everyday moments are the most magical of all.

Flying Witch will appeal to readers who enjoy quiet, uneventful reads.  Those looking for a fast-paced plot, however, or a story featuring a lot of witchcraft, should look elsewhere.

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Salt & Storm cover

Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper

Sixteen-year-old Avery Roe wishes to be the next witch of Prince Island, as witches in her family have been for generations, but first she must flee her mother and go to her grandmother for training.

Kendall Kulper’s Salt & Storm is a masterpiece witch book.  With an elaborately developed system of magic and a rich history of witches and their tenuous relationship with the normal people they help, Salt & Storm approaches the topic of witchcraft with insight and realism.  In Salt & Storm, magic can earn one power and respect—but it also comes with a price.  Protagonist Avery, who has dreamed of becoming the Prince Island witch since her childhood is willing, determined, to pay that price and more.

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Toil and Trouble: 15 Tales of Women and Witchcraft by Tess Sharpe, et al.

A YA anthology including short stories about a variety of witches, in a variety of genres. Whether you want fantasy, contemporary, or something else, this anthology is sure to have a story for you.

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The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora is known as Florian, a man willing to kill if it means his survival. The crew’s mission is to lure unsuspecting highborn passengers onto the ship so they can be sold as slaves on the Red Shore. But then the Lady Evelyn boards the ship and Flora is no longer certaain she can go along with the plan. Together, Flora and Evelyn attempt to escape, but there are greater powers at work than they know.

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Mooncakes Cover

Mooncakes by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker

There is a demon loose in the forest, and werewolf Tam wants to stop it, before it uses her magic against her.  First, however, she will need to team up with her girlhood crush, a witch named Nova.

One of the most anticipated books of 2019, Mooncakes promises a sweet story about romance, magic, and baked goods and has rightly received plenty of buzz around its diverse cast of characters.

Goldie Vance, Vol. 2 by Hope Larson & Brittney Williams (Illustrator)

Goldie Vance Volume 2

Information

Goodreads: Goldie Vance, Vol. 2
Series: Goldie Vance #2
Source: Library
Published: 2017

Summary

Sixteen-year-old Goldie Vance works at the Florida hotel her dad manages, and dreams of becoming the resort detective. So when she and her best friend Cheryl find an unconscious astronaut washed up on the beach, Goldie sees her chance to prove herself. But what if she loses her friendship with Cheryl in the process?

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Review

The Goldie Vance graphic novels are a fun series featuring a biracial teenage sleuth who dreams of becoming the in-house detective for the Florida resort her father manages. Set in the 1960s, they feature over-the-top plotlines involving Russian operatives, secret agents, and plenty of references to space. Readers seeking an upbeat all-ages comic featuring a likable and self-assured female lead will love the Goldie Vance stories.

My favorite part of the series so far may admittedly be the illustrations. I absolutely love how stylish everyone is, as well as the 1960s vibe. And I tend to be drawn to vibrantly colored graphic novels, so the color palette really appeals to me. Plus, did I mention how cute Goldie and all her friends are? Often she is depicted with over-exaggerated emotions or little hearts around her, rather like a manga character. I think tween readers in particular will really love the art.

The stories so far have tended to be a little unbelievable–this one even more so than the first volume. Goldie and her friend Cheryl find an astronaut washed up on the beach. This leads up to a plot featuring secret government projects, NASA, and more. Plenty of people, including the marketing team for the comics, have compared the Goldie Vance books to Nancy Drew, but they have more of a spy thriller thing going on. Nancy’s adventures are sometimes far-fetched, but they seem like they could conceivably happen in the real world. Goldie’s adventures are more escapist.

This volume also suffers a little more than the first from Goldie’s tendencies to make inferences without explanation or evidence. In this story, she sees Cheryl giving the astronaut a ride, and, for reasons unknown, completely flips out. Later on, it becomes apparent that Cheryl must have been missing for some time, but this is not really depicted. For awhile, I was actually unsure what mystery Goldie was supposed to be solving, because tracking down Cheryl because she was in a car did not seem to be all that mysterious.

Still, on the whole, the Goldie Vance comics are a delight to read. They are clearly not supposed to be taken very seriously, but are, rather, a fun mystery series appropriate for tweens and teens alike. I’m not sure why I have not seen many others talking about Goldie Vance. Each time I finish one of her adventures, I immediately want to start a new one!

3 Stars

Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce (ARC Review)

Myrtle Hardcastle

Information

Goodreads: Premeditated Myrtle
Series: Myrtle Hardcastle #1
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
Published: October 6, 2020

Summary

Twelve-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle is studying to be an Investigator. So when her next-door neighbor Ms. Wodehouse suddenly dies, Myrtle puts herself on the case. The police are convinced that Ms. Wodehouse died from natural circumstances. But Myrtle’s Observations lead her to conclude that something sinister happened the night of the death. Can a Young Lady of Quality solve a crime no one believes happened?

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Review

The middle-grade Victorian cozy mystery is a perhaps underrated genre–but it is one of my favorites. I can’t help but fall in love with the formula over and over again: the irrepressible girl detective, flouting societal norms; the bumbling police officers; the fight for female intelligence to be acknowledged in a man’s world. In Premeditated Myrtle, Elizabeth C. Bunce brings together all the delightful tropes, and weaves them into a story that feels comfortably familiar, yet also just a little bit new. Fans of Victorian mysteries will not want to miss out on this exciting start to a new series.

Premeditated Myrtle begins just as one would expect it to. Our heroine Myrtle chafes against society’s expectations as a Young Lady of Quality. She prefers studying criminology over having tea with girls of her own age. She likes sensible clothes that allow her to ride her bike, and she loves pockets that allow her to collect specimens. She even has the sassy narrative voice commonly adopted by protagonists in middle grade Victorian cozy mysteries–you know the one. However, as the story progresses, Bunce surprises by drawing the attention away from Myrtle and towards the people who surround her.

One might have assumed that Myrtle would want to be the star in her own story, but Myrtle’s strength lies in her ability to form a team–even if she might not call it that herself. Her governess Ms. Judson plays a key role in her adventures, taking her seriously when no one else will and providing pertinent observations. Others, however, seem inevitably drawn into Myrtle’s circle, perhaps because they love her or maybe because she shows them a world they could never have imagined otherwise. I was inspired to see how Myrtle formed a core group of women who supported each other and used their wits to solve a crime the police could not. Historical fiction books like this sometimes seem weighted disproportionately with men, as if to emphasize how marginalized the women are in their society. But Bunce’s book is weighted with women with agency–they do not allow society to circumscribe them.

Of course, any reader of mystery wants to know how mysterious the book actually is. In this case, I guessed the culprit early on, but that did nothing to lessen my enjoyment. The pleasure of Premeditated Myrtle is watching Myrtle find and weigh the evidence, as well as watching her navigate her personal relationships as she pursues her unconventional hobby. Even so, there are enough red herrings that one could reasonably begin to second guess themselves–as I did–and I believe the intended target audience will find the mystery perplexing.

Premeditated Myrtle is a delightful read, made even more enjoyable by its wonderfully sympathetic cast of characters. Myrtle and her friends, more than anything, make me want to go on another adventure with them. So, if you love Victorian cozy mysteries, give this one a try. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

4 stars

Nevermoor: A Contemporary Book I Think Should Become a Classic (Classic Remarks)

Classic Remarks

WHAT IS CLASSIC REMARKS?

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE?

Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!

You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.

(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)

THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:

What is a contemporary book you think might become a classic?  Or should become a classic?

Nevermoor:  A Book That Should Become a Classic

Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor series has enchanted and delighted me right from the start, and I can easily see these books becoming another children’s fantasy classic, along with the likes of the Harry Potter books. Book one introduces readers to Morrigan Crow, a young girl who has been told all her life that she is cursed and must die on her eleventh birthday. Instead, however, a bold and brilliant man named Jupiter North arrives, chased by hell-hounds, to whisk her away to the magical world of Nevermoor. The catch is, Morrigan is not meant to be there at all. To stay, she will have to earn a place in the prestigious Wundrous Society, comprised of members who each possess a remarkable talent. But Morrigan does not believe she has any talent at all.

The world of Nevermoor is gloriously complicated and quirky, and readers who love detailed world-building that makes them feel that they have truly crossed over into another place will adore Townsend’s work. If Hogwarts and its magic ever attracted readers, the wonders of Nevemoor surely will, as well. There are dragons and witches and talking cats. There are secret societies and schools for the talented and trials to be passed. If you looking for something whimsical and magical, you will find it here.

And the cast of characters! Morrigan is a wonderfully sympathetic lead. Born knowing that she was meant to die, and that townsfolk blamed her for all their misfortunes, Morrigan has known very little love. And, as a result, she is often unsure of herself. But she is kind and bold and clever, and it is impossible not to cheer her on. She is surrounded in turn by a group of equally interesting and lovable characters, from the quirky Jupiter North to the stern talking cat Fenestra. Morrigan finds a new family to love in her Nevermoor, and that means everything.

The plot, too, is fascinating and I think readers will be engrossed, not only by the world of Nevermoor, but also by its events. Something is going on that is not quite right, something beyond the trials for new recruits to join the Wundrous Society. These things, of course, just happen to center around Morrigan. Townsend keeps readers intrigued and guessing–she knows how to keep them on the edges of their seats.

Truly, the Nevermoor books are delightful in every way. There are few books that can bear a comparison to Harry Potter. Jessica Townsend’s books do.

The Flower of the Witch by Enrico Orlandi, Trans. by Jamie Richards (ARC Review)

Information

Goodreads: The Flower of the Witch
Series: None
Source: ARC from Edelweiss
Published: September 29, 2020

Summary

At the age of ten, Tami left his village on journey to become a man. He has been told that he needs to retrieve the flowers of the witch on the mountain to achieve his quest and return home. But, on his way, he inadvertently angers the spirits, causing them to renew their fighting with a northern village. Now he must decide: will he complete his quest or defend the villagers?

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Review

The Flower of the Witch is a reflective re-imagining of the classic quest story that asks what it really means to grow up. Tami left his village over a year ago, at the age of ten, to go on a journey to become a man. Unfortunately, no one told him what that would entail. He has been fighting monsters and saving princesses, but he still does not think he has fulfilled his quest. Now, he has been told that retrieving the flowers from the witch on the mountain will earn him the honor he needs to return home. But, when he angers the spirits, he must decide what is more important: retrieving the flowers or protecting the people he has endangered. Enrico Orlandi offers a provocative look at what it really means to grow up, and what kind of qualities we value in society.

The classic journey to “become a man” often seems to hinge on some sort of bravery, as exemplified through fighting. The message is that maturity–and masculinity–are defined through physical strength and aggression. Tami has clearly grown up in a culture where this is the norm, as evidenced by his attempts to achieve manhood by fighting monsters and saving damsels in distress. However, over time, Tami reluctantly has to conclude that he has not yet achieved manhood–and he has no idea how to do so. Left without any guidance from a society that seems not to value Tami in and of himself, he is left to wander the wilderness, nearly dying, because he is not considered “worthy” enough to return home.

Tami’s story encourages readers to rethink the classic quest narrative and the values it assumes. Why is physical strength equated with masculinity? Why must boys “prove” themselves to be considered men? What does it actually mean to grow up? And what kind of values should we be instilling in our children? Additionally, why is there such a hurry to grow up at all? Tami himself has to answer these questions and determine what kind of man he would one day like to be.

The beautiful artwork adds to the magic of the story, taking readers on journey to the north where demons still guard the roads and spirits affect the everyday lives of the people. Spirits and witches come alive through the distinctive illustrations, as does the frozen landscape where Tami must learn to survive. Readers who enjoy fantasy comics will find themselves drawn into this one.

The Flower of the Witch is an original twist on the classic coming-of-age story, as well as the fantasy quest. It encourages readers to identify the assumptions they may hold about what it means to “be a man” or to grow up. However, while the message is thought-provoking, it never overtakes the compelling storyline of which it is a part. Tami’s journey will enchant anyone who enjoys a good fantasy quest.

3 Stars

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King Boo Cover

Information

Goodreads: Mighty Jack and the Goblin King
Series: Mighty Jack #2
Source: Library
Published: 2017

Summary

Maddy has been taken by a giant! Now it is up to Jack and Lilly to save her. But, when the two get separated, Jack will have to figure out how to complete his mission on his own.

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Review

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke jumps right into the adventure where book one left off. Jack and Lilly journey across worlds to find Maddy and save her from the clutches of a giant. Along the way, they meet new allies and face new enemies. This action-packed read is sure to thrill readers who love fantasy adventures.

What I love most about the Mighty Jack series is perhaps how classic the books feel. They remind me of curling up on a summer day to read tales of heroes and monsters. They pay homage to fairy tale and fantasy tropes, while creating an original adventure. This is the kind of read that you wish would last just a little bit longer, always just a little bit longer.

My one critique is that Lilly remains a far more interesting–and capable–character than Jack, the titular hero. While Jack is off rushing headlong into fights, and failing to achieve much as a result, Lilly likes to step back, assess the situation, and create a workable plan. She ends up saving Jack more often than not. She also proves to have the true heart of a hero, demonstrating self-sacrificial love in moments when Jack remains focused on his own mission. Truly, the series ought to be named “Incredible Lilly and That Guy She Keeps Saving.”

If you can get past the feeling that the series has been inaccurately named for an incapable male instead of his amazing female friend, the Mighty Jack series is truly enchanting. It contains all the wonderful fantasy elements one could want, from goblins and dragons to magical portals to other worlds. If you enjoy stories like Narnia or King Arthur or fairy tales, the Mighty Jack series might just be for you.

4 stars