April 21, 2010

Lloyd Alexander

Lloyd Alexander is great hero of mine. I read his Prydain Chronicles (The Black Cauldron, etc.) when I was very young and because of it, I wanted to grow up and write fantasy novels. I still do. I don't think anyone should grow up without reading Alexander. It should be illegal. Or something.

This post is a reminder of why Alexander still rules supreme in the world of fantasy and why all children aged 7 on up, should be reading his stuff.

Vesper Holly is a very energetic and intelligent young woman who travels around the world with her guardian finding a whole lot of danger in the process. It is fun, clean, and has an Indiana Jones feel to it. I love them all, but my favorite is the Philadelphia Adventure. This series is great for girls, 10 and up. I don't think boys would hate it either.

The Westmark trilogy is geared toward older youth. I'd peg it at about twelve and up (Lloyd Alexander really does write for the younger crowd). The story follows a young man, Theo, who gets into trouble with the law and has to flee his home city. He hooks up with a shyster and a young girl, Mickle, who later turns out to be someone slightly more significant than anyone thought. Later, Theo has to lead an army. The story follows his evolution from gentle, peace-loving, compassionate hero to war leader. This is my favorite series of Alexander's. It has a lot of depth and character development.

The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man is about what you'd expect--hilarious. Lionel decides he wants to try being a human so he convinces a magician to change him. When Lionel heads to the city a great uproar ensues as he manages to enrage the two major political heads of the city within the first fifteen minutes of his arrival. There's also a girl. It is hard for a cat to figure out how to impress a girl. Tons of fun.

The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha is my favorite stand-alone book by Alexander. The story is about a young rascal, a street rat, who volunteers to help a magician win over the townspeople by sticking his head in a bucket. Of course, he doesn't believe anything will happen but it does. Yes, indeed it does. Lukas winds up in a different time, different country, and certainly different social status. What he learns during his "second" life surprises him.

The Arkadians is a frolic through Greek mythology. Basically, Alexander takes some major myths and writes about how they got started. Only he does it through a story of a two travelers and a donkey (so three travelers) who don't intend to make anything of significance happen as they travel along. It is very fun to be reading along and then recognize, suddenly, just what myth Alexander is working in next. Fun, fun.

Alexander's best known works are his Prydain Chronicles including: The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High King. These books follow the adventures of Taran, Assistant Pig Keeper, after he loses his pig and stumbles on treachery and war.

The cast of characters are fantastic including Gurgi (who loves to eat), Fflewddur Fflam (who cannot tell the truth), Eilonwy (who refuses to be merely decorative), Prince Gwydion (who is supposed to save everyone), and Dallben (the wise man). I love them all.

It is unfortunate that Disney ever made the animated movie. Do not watch it. I repeat, DO NOT WATCH IT. It kills the book. However, if the people who made the new Narnia movies wanted to make the Prydain Chronicles into movies, I would wholeheartedly support the idea. Not that anyone cares what I think. I'm just saying.

Alexander wrote dozens of books and they are all wonderful. I've read just about everything he's ever written, and the man was brilliant. He had a great sense of audience and always made the stories fun and charming without including anything that was too mature. That's hard to do. How many books for third graders do you choose to read? Exactly my point. I pick up my Alexander books all the time. They're that good.

No comments:

Post a Comment