Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog, Nugget.
Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.
You might want to grab a coffee or chai or something and find a comfy seat. This is going to be a long one.
People had been telling me for years that I really ought to read the Wingfeather Saga, but I had never gotten around to it. Lo and behold, LifeWay had the complete collection on sale, and my momma asked me if I would pre-read them for my siblings.
This was my chance! And now I understand why so many people said I should read it.
First off, can we appreciate that INCREDIBLE cover art? My brother pestered me for weeks asking if I was done yet because he wanted to read the book because the cover art was so cool. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but really, look at it. And all four covers look that good!
With that properly appreciated, next up, the narrator! This is such a quirky story. If you don’t believe me, just read both the prefaces to book one. Or just the title of book one, really. That’s not to say the story wasn’t ever serious. It really is, especially the further you go into the story. But the quirky descriptions of the world via the footnotes add that extra charm that pulls you into the story world.
On that note, the footnotes were perfect! (Pun intended.) That way, if someone found the narrator’s commentary annoying, they could just read on without being interrupted. Or, if they were like me and found it utterly hilarious, they could read every single one.
The quirky humor gives way to creative, beautiful imagery at just the right moment. I could see everything so vividly in my head. Those images had the power to make me laugh, breathe in deep, or cringe, depending on the vibe. It gave a very poetic feel to the narrative.
The Wingfeather Saga moved from the twists being fairly easy(ish) to predict in book one to twists that slapped me out of nowhere in book four. This is a story that’s not afraid to take the hard, unexpected route.
My favorite character, hands down, was Nugget. (Not what you were expecting?) Okay, but if I have to choose someone other than the dog, I’d choose Janner right away. I related to him from the first chapters. Janner captures the struggle of an oldest child, torn between his duty to protect his siblings and his desire to discovering himself and the world around him. Add to that all the wild feelings of adolescence, and he has his hands full.
Speaking of Janner . . . THE ENDING. I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say, Andrew Peterson stabbed my soul multiple times. And then had the nerve to leave the ending to my imagination! How much do I have to pay to get that final chapter? In all seriousness, the ending was unexpected and shocking, but bittersweet and beautiful all at once.
Going into The Wingfeather Saga, I thought I knew exactly what it was going to be. Let’s face it, after a while, many Christian fantasy allegories start to look alike. But the further I got, the less this seemed to be an allegory, and the more it seemed to be just a good story. And, as all good stories should, it nodded to a few things in real life, too. It left a lot of food for thought and a new perspective.
It’s one of those stories that reminds me what it was like to be a child. Makes me believe I can be one again. It rekindles wonder.
This would be a fabulous family read-aloud. Also, much to my excitement, I discovered there is a short film available on Amazon Prime and YouTube. There’s also a soundtrack. And there’s also a show slated for seven (seven) seasons that begins in December of this year.
(First off, a faith-based show with quality animation and story work? Based on an amazing book series? Sign me up. And second off, did I mention this show also has the head of story from How to Train Your Dragon 2 behind it? Meep!)
Yeah, I might have joined the fandom.
The Wingfeather Saga has earned a special spot in my heart and reawakened a sense of wonder and excitement in me. Highly recommend to all families.
Sweep By Jonathan Auxier
For nearly a century, Victorian London relied on “climbing boys” - orphans owned by chimney sweeps - to clean flues and protect homes from fire. The work was hard, thankless, and brutally dangerous.
Eleven-year-old Nan Sparrow is quite possibly the best climber who ever lived - and a girl. With her wits and will, she’s managed to beat the deadly odds time and time again. But when Nan gets stuck in a deadly chimney fire, she fears her time has come.
Instead, she wakes to find herself in an abandoned attic. And she is not alone. Huddled in the corner is a mysterious creature - a golem - made from ash and coal. This is the creature that saved her from the fire.
Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster. Together, these two outcasts carve out a life - saving one another in the process. By one of today’s most powerful storytellers, Sweep is a heartrending adventure about the everlasting gifts of friendship and hope.
While intended for a middle grade audience, this is a children’s book that speaks more to the grown-up world than one might think. Nan and her group of friends face down big things, dark things and come out better. At its glowing heart, Sweep is a story about all the things that make up life—the sweet and wondrous, and the dark and painful.
The friendship between Nan and Charlie is just the sweetest thing ever. From the back cover copy, I expected Charlie to be this more mature protector type. He sure is the protector type but his child-like questions and curiosity about everything warm the heart.
Unlike Nan, I adored Toby and wished he would have had more time on the pages. But if he were to have more time on the page, then something else would have had to be taken out, and we just can’t have that.
The inclusion of Jewish heritage and characters was a lovely touch and I enjoyed having it in there. It’s such a rich and interesting history to read about and a group of people that need representation in fiction beyond victims in WWII novels.
Miss Bloom was a brilliant adult figure—showing where she’s made mistakes and where she’s gotten it right. Her care for the kids in the story added a lot. And seeing an adult regain her sense of wonder is a beautiful thing as well.
The climax is gorgeous. And bittersweet. And . . . well, I won’t spoil it.
None. (If you have a more sensitive reader, you may want to consider that this book tactfully but realistically portrays what chimney sweeps of that time faced. This can lead to some intense scenes for younger readers such as a chimney fire intentionally started by another sweep, one sweep who is killed in an accident, and illnesses brought on by inhaling soot.)
Don’t sweep this book aside. No matter what age you are, this should be required reading for everyone and is sure to grab readers who still hang on to their sense of wonder. (It would definitely be a fabulous choice for a family read-aloud!)
Piper really does have it rough.
Her dad's been missing for years. Her mom died in a car accident. Now she and her younger brother Phoenix have been sent to live with Aunt Beryl, whom they barely know, except for this:
She hates libraries. Hates them with a passion, even though she has the most beautiful one of all. They remind her too much of some great sadness in her past. Her first thing to do when the children arrive? A long list of rules of where they may and may not go.
If it weren't for Aunt Beryl's butler and cook, there might not be any hope at all.
Oh, and that mysterious book in the library that keeps calling their names.
No, literally. Calling their names.
I read this book to screen it for my younger siblings, and truthfully, we need more adult and young adult books like this. It's a different look at fantasy in the piles of fantasy novels that come out every year. It's a creative look at God that brings it down to a child's wonder and imagination. Each chapter begins with the best little bookish quote--not to mention the references to favorite books scattered throughout. What could be better than a book that introduces kids to literature?
Not to mention this book has a most interesting narrator--a book! Talk about creative! (I mean, really, have you ever read a book narrated by a book? That's what I thought.)
But not everything is fun and games. This book doesn't think kids are too young to deal with some tough topics. The book deals with grief and it deals with it in a very real sense--I actually felt sad after reading it. But it doesn't just describe it, it offers hope.
It also deals with topics like autism and dyslexia. My family has first-hand experience with both and the way this book handled it was refreshing, truthful, and practical.
The book has been kid-tested, too. My younger sister read it and I have not seen her that involved in a book in a long time.
Honestly, my only complaint about this book is that it doesn't look like it will be a series. Buy a copy for a middle-grader in your life. Buy a copy for yourself. Find a tree to climb up in and read.
And get closer to the God Who is everywhere, everywhen.
Hi there! Rachel again. Check out this section for book reviews and cover reveals of some of my favorites!