A pig, dark riders, and heroes! Oh my!
The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
First Line: “Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes.”
Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, is what every great kid hero ought to be. He’s got humble beginnings, fierce loyalty, and a little bit of a stubborn streak. This is the kind of book that even non-readers will plow through because it starts with a bang. By page four we’re hearing about the Horned King (he’s the bad guy–duh) and we’re gripped with fear. By chapter two, Taran’s already gone and started his adventure.
The pace is quick yet steady and Taran’s solo quest gradually turns into a band of misfits story. Even if the characters seem a little familiar to more experienced readers (i.e., one guy sounds an awful lot like Gollum), they’re still entertaining.
In a sense, this novel is the ideal Intro to Fantasy. It’s a little more rugged and action-oriented than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but it’s at a comparable reading level.
Even better–this novel isn’t some fleeting 21st century “bestseller.” The Book of Three is a classic–it’s definitely going to go through dozens more reprints and re-releases. Until then, this 50th Anniversary Edition is pretty great to hold.
Want to encourage a love of reading? Give a kid a lux hardback with gold leaf. Because yes, the cover matters. Cloth and buckram bindings make the reading experience rich and epic and better suit the King Arthur-adventure-hero vibe. From Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series (this is book one), they can graduate to Narnia, then Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and eventually The Lord of the Rings.
Bottom Line: It’s fiction and “make believe,” but having kids read stories like this can still build character.