Artemis Fowl Saves Us Again

artemisone Last thanksgiving (2008) we took a trip from our house in south central Utah to visit my in-laws who live in southern Idaho. The trip is about 9 hours each way, 12 hours with our traditional shopping stops. The kids have really grown this year making our van appear much smaller than it use to. I was worried.

My wife Christina brought along an audio book: Artemis Fowl Book One. The effect was rather amazing. The story line held the interest of all of the children, ages ranging from 3-13. The audio recording was captivating. I had not heard an audio book this captivating since the audio of Harry Potter.

The story is about a 12 year old boy Artemis Fowl, who is a genius who is protected by his bodyguard, Butler. Artemis discovers the secret “fairy” race and true to his family background tries to exploit them. As Artemis interacts with a compilation of charters like: Holly Short, Root, and Foaly, Artemis begins to change from a corrupt boy to a man with values for humanity.

artemistwoWe took a similar trip again last month, same distance, into Colorado. This time we listened to book two: The Arctic Incident. Just as before, as long as the audio was turned on then the kids where cooperative and silent. When ever we had to turn the audio off, like a stop to get gas, complaining would erupt. I even turned the audio on and off a few times just to experiment with the “Mesmer” effect the audio had on the kids.

Since that trip, my self and the older three children have read all six books. I like that the books are simple story that does not take 500 plus pages to read like many of the more popular kids books recently. This made the series something that my 8 year old could read and enjoy as well as my 13 year olds (they are twins). I have to admit that when the story first started I was worried that the “fairy” idea was going to be too childish. 50 miles into our trip I had forgotten about that worry. I was as much drawn into the story was the rest of the family. As a side note, every family should have at least one of these traveling experiences once a year.

artemisbox1The first three books have the same intriguing story quality. Into the third book, and climaxing with the sixth book, the plot starts to become more complex and themes of environmentalism and social trends are evident. I don’t have too much an issue with this, expect that they start to distract from the story of Artemis Fowl. A good story does not allow these social themes to override the book. In book six, environmentalism hijacks the book. The books also reflect the social norms of European countries. This is not as pronounced as with the environmentalism theme, mostly just reflecting the marginalization of parents and adopting outside families. And no, this is not just a reflection of a teenage book struggling with the need for autonomy. Absent fathers and no defined mother influences are now almost universal in our modern writing.

If you are looking for a good story for the entire family the Artemis Fowl series will be very satisfying. The story flows well and holds everyone’s attention. The books are not too large that your young readers will get tired or overwhelmed. The charters are well defined and are enjoyable. Latter into the series younger readers may need some help following or not getting too confused in the ever changing events. This is a great book to read out loud to your children.artemissix Older ones can read ahead but I recommend that you read out loud to the younger ones.

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How much time do you spend reading to your children?

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The Icebound Land (Ranger’s Apprentice, Book 3)

Ranger's Apprentice The Ice Bound LandI have to admit that I was reluctant at first to start reading the Ranger’s Apprentice. My wife had brought home book two in the set just as I was needing to start a new book with the kids. I had wanted to find a historical fiction novel like Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes. However my oldest son had purchased the third book and he was excited for me to read the series. (advice – let your wife influence you in everything)

We started with book two because it was the first one we had. I have to admit, it started off slow but by a few chapters into the book it was really holding the kids interest. The words flow nicely and the story is engaging but not too complex. By the time we finished the second book we where ready for book three.

Something happened at this point. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) came out. I took my older daughters and we stood in line to get the book. The girls, twins, were old enough that this time it became more of a battle about who was going to read the book first; not me read out loud to them. This was a turning point. The girls loved to read and were now reading on their own.

After this I stopped reading for a while. Then the other day my oldest son asked, “Dad, why did you stop reading? When are you going to read to us again?” I started that very night. We started reading The Icebound Land – book three. The Icebound Land is a grabber from the start. Of course we knew the story from book two and the stories flow into each other more than they are separate books.

About half way through I was surprised that John Flanagan introduced more of an adult theme into the book. The main charter, Will, becomes addicted to a narcotic. I do not want to give away more about the book but as you are selecting this book as a possible book to read to your family you may want to consider if all of your children are old enough to understand addiction.

My kids have heard me talk about addiction. I work with adolescents who have used substances. I do recommend that you talk to your kids about this topic when you are done reading so you can see how they are experiencing the book and the topic. I also think reading this book would be a good time for you to do some teaching about addiction and life experiences.

In general The Icebound Land is a fantasy book that has some of the same themes as Lord of the Rings, namely young heroes, older guides, and a journey of risk and self discovery.

My recommendation is:

  • The book is a 8.5 out of 10
  • The writing is easy to understand
  • The books flows well
  • Holds attention
  • Addiction is a major part of the story
  • Ends abruptly and you will want to move onto book 4 right away.

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