A strong opening to a children’s fantasy series.

The Iron Order

THE BLACKTHORN TALES VOLUME 1

In a land of prophecy and magic, a young boy proves that individuals still have a choice in Barr’s (Grasshopper in the Ant Hill, 2011) children’s fantasy tale, the first in a planned series.

Orphaned Brannoch has grown up hearing the enigmatic Mr. Gern’s heroic tales of Tal Rij, a hero credited with defending the world against the evil tyrant Lord Bedlam and his Iron Order. As a small boy who has trouble facing his own village bullies, he doesn’t expect ever to achieve greatness. But when Brannoch’s sister is killed in her sleep by a shadow creature, Gern rushes Brannoch away from his village and hands him off to Ein Ulani, a skilled sorceress. Brannoch finds himself heading into an unknown future, as adults around him decide his destiny. After he has a fateful conversation with a capable, beautiful girl named Leli, he realizes he must start taking control of his own life. During their talk, he claims not to believe in fate: “That our lives are laid out ahead of time and we’re just going through a set of actions to get to some fixed point?…What would be the point of…of anything?” Later, a monster fighter named Calion also encourages the boy to make his own way in life, and Brannoch soon discovers that, in making his own choices, he may end up confronting the same evil that Tal Rij once fought. The story is reminiscent of David Eddings’ early works, but its focus on individual choice makes it unlike many other fantasy tales, where prophecy often plays an important part. Barr gives the novel’s secondary characters strong personalities, although the novel’s brevity doesn’t allow for extensive character development. The conclusion, with its slightly rushed final battle, leaves room for the story to grow in later installments.

A strong opening to a children’s fantasy series.

Pub Date: April 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615732817

Page Count: 196

Publisher: Doghouse Reilly Studios

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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I AM NOT GOING TO GET UP TODAY!

After an eight-year interval, a Beginner Book by this well-loved originator of the series is welcome; and since Seuss hasn't chosen to illustrate it himself, we are lucky to have Stevenson as alternate. In the familiar Seuss pattern of a simple premise exaggerated to comic effect, a boy declares, "My bed is warm. My pillow's deep. Today's the day I'm going to sleep"—regardless of his mother, various arguments, successive waves of reinforcements, including the Marines, and a TV crew filming the momentous event. Actually, the development of the idea is a little tame compared with Seuss' other extravaganzas (and such determined all-day slumber is more the province of teen-agers and the good doctor's contemporaries than of readers at this level); but the book is delightfully enlivened by Stevenson's vigorous illustrations, which considerably augment the text by showing the full extent of the consternation caused by the hero's stubborness. Though there is plenty of the repetition required by learning readers, there are also some unusual words like Memphis, suggesting that this is not the easiest easy reader; but it has enough appeal to keep beginners entertained.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1987

ISBN: 0394892178

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1987

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