Although the sunny hills and shining ponds of early children’s stories are both plentiful and beautiful, as the growing child looks past the rolling hills he sees in the distance a land higher up and farther in. It is the expanse of classic fantasy, populated with wonders and miracles. It is a place where deep themes and hard questions are dealt with and discussed, but the path that leads to those lands is not wide. If the reader wants to enter these lands properly he will have to take the right road, and that road must cross a bridge – the bridge of epic fairy-tales.
Epic fairy tales are the mash before the meat. They provide the understanding needed to truly appreciate great fantasy. Though these epic fairy tales are very important, there have been few added in this last century to aid in developing holy imagination. As a lover of powerful living tales, I am always searching this slim genre for writers worth reading. Writers like MacDonald, Nesbit, Yolen, Carroll, and Lang have built the bridge, but I am always happy to find someone else to lend them support. Therefore, I am happy that I can suggest one more: Edward Myers.
This week while visiting our large down-town library I discovered a new book, Storyteller. I found it in the middle-grade readers section that I often comb through for new chapter books. I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I did. The artwork promised an intriguing read, so I snatched it up, hoping to add in a little light reading on top of my already full reading schedule. As I skimmed the first two pages I was drawn by the style and feel of the story, but I tried not to get my hopes up. I have traveled this pathway before, sadly to say, and I have had my hopes dashed by quite a few little books with beguiling covers but flat stories.
Like a child nibbling on a candy bar before suppertime I snuck chances here and there to read my new book before my normal reading time. There was something about it that just kept me coming back for more and I ended up reading all 288 pages in two days of determined extra-reading.
The story is bright, active, and interesting. There are fun twists on classical ideas, and illusions to ancient proverbial wisdom that add savor to the overall story. The main character, Jack Storyteller (a nod to all the other Jacks in classic fairy-tales), is developed enough to carry the very creative plot line, but the story is not meant to be an epic world-creating fantasy – The feel is more like the light-handed touch of familiar books like The Princess and the Goblin. The magic of this story is in the subtle nuggets of truth that are mixed in the words and ideas themselves. It is not an allegory, but it will probe so deeply to some readers that they will feel that it might be one. Overall the story is a wonderful narrative exploring the power and purpose of storytelling and the intentions and entrapments of entertainment.
This story would be a wonderful read aloud for young children, and the short chapters lend for easy reading before bedtimes or during short free periods. The vocabulary might push this book into the upper elementary for those that read it alone.
Though I feared to hope until nearly the end, I was deeply satisfied when I closed this little treasure and had nothing but fondness and reflections to keep me company. I hope that after reading Storyteller you too will have another epic fairy-tale to add to your list.