Andrew Peterson’s North! Or Be Eaten is the kind of book I always wanted to read as a kid but could never find. This sequel to his previous book in the Wingfeather Saga, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, is full of adventure and daring in a magnificent fantasy world.
But there’s more. Amidst sword fights and evil villains the family members strive to get along with each other – something everyone can understand. The story is huge but, at the same time, it is a very small story about a family. The immediate threat to our characters at any given time may be monsters or evil henchmen, but the real story here is the way the characters struggle within their own family. Peterson is very wise to craft his story in such a way.
While reading this book I was impressed at the immensity of Peterson’s imagination. I knew he was a gifted story teller from his song lyrics, but I wasn’t prepared for the amount of originality in his story. At every turn of the tale, the reader is introduced to new and interesting ideas; strange creatures and interesting cities all have their own history and reputation within the story that the characters interact with. As the story progresses, Peterson craftily shows us more of his magical world.
I don’t know anything about Peterson’s literary training or his education, but his book is very mythopoetically sound; which means, his book successfully creates a world with its own myths and history without depending on our own world for these things. This is a difficult challenge for most fantasy writers and few can pull it off as well as Peterson has done in this book for children. (J.R.R. Tolkien famously criticized C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia for certain lapses in mythopoetic integrity.) There is even an appendix in the back to help us learn more about this world – which is fun.
I was initially surprised at the length of the book – 330 pages seems like a lot for a book marketed to children. However, the book is broken up into many short chapters so that a younger reader can pace themselves while an older one can read a few chapters in a sitting. (I’ve noticed, in the wake of Harry Potter, that books for young people have gotten much larger – so I’m probably just out of touch. Wait, I’m a historian. Of course I’m out touch.)
In conclusion, North! Or be Eaten! should be on your child’s bookshelf. If I were young I would want nothing more than to read this books again and again to relive the adventure and to escape into a world of fantasy and excitement. Pedagogically speaking, it is not too difficult to read but will send a child to the dictionary now and then to learn new words- which is excellent.
You can purchase this book at amazon.com here (surprisingly affordable, I might add) and you can visit Andrew Peterson’s website at www.Andrew-Peterson.com.
(Also, if you’re interested in this type of literature, you may want to read my blog entry about Phantom Island:Wind – a young adult novel that will appeal to many of the same readers, perhaps just a bit older.)
(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)