I am convinced that North! Or Be Eaten contains something for a wide range of readers. Thus, each of my exclamatory remarks in the title of these post represent four elements of story which Andrew Peterson does marvelously - humor, adventure, mystery, and love of family.
I am convinced that
North! Or Be Eaten
contains something for a wide range of readers.
Thus, each of my exclamatory remarks in the title of these post represent four elements of story which Andrew Peterson does marvelously - humor, adventure, mystery, and love of family.
You know it’s going to be interesting from the title. Then the blurb on the back cover has footnotes to itself at the bottom (I kid thee not). You know Peterson had fun with this book.
From the punctuation enthusiast (Fork! Factory!) to the boy who likes nasty stuff (the Fangs enjoy the most… unappetizing dishes) and everyone in-between (I especially loved the Florid Sword - marvelous character, he is!), if are in possession of a funny bone, something in this book will tickle, if not ferociously attack it.
I should note that this book did not seem to contain quite as many jokes as the first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. The footnotes are fewer, simply explaining previous plot stuff more often than obscure-but-hilarious history (from what I recall), but since the action moved so fast I didn’t mind. And the whole tone is darker and more intense, so when something funny does jump out, laughter is an even more welcome relief. Like finding a jelly bean hidden under your bowl of gruel. Not that the book is like eating gruel, exactly. Perhaps very exciting, thrilling gruel. But even the most delicious gruel, heaped with sugar and butter, needs a jelly bean to cheer it up and make a complete meal…
Um, yes. Enough weird comparisons for now. Moving on!
“Run! If you’re out there, run! They’re coming!”
— A Tale of Timiny, (Brookwater Press),
This book has a LOT of running in it. Someone is almost always being chased by someone…or something. There are also swordfights, perilous bridges, rooftop chases, daring escapes, vengeful monsters, angry monsters, and (surprise!) hungry monsters. And with all this happening, somehow you still have a moment to breathe now and then, when the characters find temporary reprieve. Then questions, answers, and deeper spiritual things flow in just as much wonderful abundance.
What secret is Peet still hiding? Who is the dangerous Someone nearby Janner is warned about? What happens to the children who are stolen away in the Black Carriage? Can a ridgerunner ever be trusted? Can anyone? How do you talk a man-eating Bomnubble into giving you its warm coat? Andrew Peterson handled all the mysteries quite well, I thought, giving you just enough hints to almost guess a few things without being obvious. I realized who the masked feller was almost immediately, but the fate of the children (and the Bomnubble’s fur) took me aback! And, like all good mysteries in a series, by the end we are left with more questions than we had at first.
There is another kind of mystery in this book of the unsolvable sort. The world of Aerwiar is mysterious in wonderful ways, just like ours, so don’t expect everything to be explained. Leeli’s singing, the bird whose passing overhead marks the beginning of Fall, the ways of the sea dragons, the comfort of a mother’s hug – these too are mysteries. And they make the tale glimmer and live, like rain making the whole world look deeper and more real, or like “completely superfluous” candles by the window on a dark night.
Love of Family!
Not many children’s books these days affirm and encourage closeness and dependence and responsibility to family. This book does. The grown-ups are wise and honored, the siblings generally good role models. Of course Janner, Tink, Leeli, Nia, Podo, and Peet are not perfect, but neither are any of them shallow, dumb, or only there for ridicule. They are all deep, and they all have nobleness burning inside them. But more than that, they all love each other deeper than the Dark Sea of Darkness.
Inscribed in the front, Andrew Peterson wrote to his children: For Aedan, Asher, and Skye. Remember who you are. That’s a theme of the book, resonating in the darkest moments. And it makes me think of an ancient letter, from a High King, reminding me who I am every time I will listen.
Let me know if I left out a story element which you find critical. I will consider and let you know, because this is such a wild book, it could be there! ;-)
Did I miss something?
Did I miss something?