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.
We 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.
The 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. Older ones can read ahead but I recommend that you read out loud to the younger ones.