Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Monster in the Hollows by Andrew Peterson

I tend to like series books, much like many young readers. A new book in a favorite series is like a blanky fresh out of the drier: it’s still comfortable and familiar but there’s a new warmth and freshness inviting you to snuggle on the couch.

But I don’t generally reread the previous books before curling up with the latest title. The Kane Chronicles, The 39 Clues, the Penderwicks, Alex Rider, Diary of a Wimpy Kid - I love them all, but I didn’t reread them to prepare for the next installment.

There are exceptions, however, and the exceptions are exceptional. The Hunger Games is the most recent. Harry Potter before that. The Giver and Gathering Blue before the release of Messenger.

And now The Wingfeather Saga.

Readers met Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby in On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. Their adventures both fighting and fleeing the Fang minions of Gnag the Nameless continued in North! Or Be Eaten! Now comes The Monster in the Hollows. The Igiby children and their grandfather, Podo, are headed with their mother to her homeland. The Green Hollows is where Nia grew up, and just off the coast is the Shining Isle of Anniera, the ancient kingdom still smoldering nine years after its destruction.

In the Green Hollows the Igiby children find the closest thing to a home since leaving their cottage in Glipwood. There’s a home, a school, classmates, and neighbors. And peace … sort of. While the Igibys are no longer running for their lives, they still can’t find peace. There are suspicious looks from curious Hollish people, difficult lessons learned in school and life, and the mysterious cloven - beasts of the forest - boldly entering the towns of the Green Hollows in ways they never have before.

But what is the monster in the Hollows? The possibilities grow in number along with the pages. Is the monster one of the new residents of the Green Hollows, the Igibys? Is it the cloven leaving the safety of the forest to seemingly terrorize the Hollish folk? Is the monster unseen, like jealousy or greed or hatred or fear? One could make an argument for all of them, but it’s the unexpected monsters that leave readers waiting (im)patiently for the final installment, The Warden and the Wolf King.

I know I’m placing The Wingfeather Saga in rarefied air, and I know many will question my judgement. How can someone put Andrew Peterson’s books in the same company as Hollywood buzz and celebrity casting (The Hunger Games), bajillion copy sellers (Harry Potter), and Newbery Medals and the canonical works of children’s literature (The Giver)?

It’s a fair question. But even though Mr. Peterson is a relative unknown in the world of children’s literature, he has pulled me into Aerwiar just like I was pulled into Panem, Hogwarts, and Jonas’s Utopian society. And that’s sayin’ something.

Movies, sales figures, and awards aren’t hugely important to readers. It’s the books that stay fresh in your mind long after you’ve finished reading that truly make a difference, and The Monster in the Hollows and the entire Wingfeather Saga have a lasting impact indeed.
And I can't wait to reread them again.

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