Last time my family undertook a road trip to visit family, we got entirely addicted to Peter & the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson, via audiobook. In my case, I got addicted again, because I’d already listened to the entire trilogy while commuting to and from work. But listening to the story again was still completely fresh, delightful, funny, and profound. The books are for children, but if you’re an adult with an imagination, they will speak to you too.
This weekend, we undertook a 2-day trip to Columbus. Never again. Eight to nine hours on Saturday and Sunday each, with a few hours to see extended family in the evening and the morning. This is what happens when one lives in the heart of capitalism, and taking a single day off for a sick relative endangers job security. But moving along.
I hurried in to the local Chicago Public Library to grab a stack of books for our voracious child, and thought, oh my, hours and hours of whining, Are We There Yet?, How long is it going to be? So I went to the audiobook shelf, and found the second book in Nancy Farmer’s Sea of Trolls trilogy, The Land of the Silver Apples. Another brief digression: the most valuable thing I have found in this country is its public library systems. This has been one of the most important things to me in parenting a child and living a well-informed, enjoyable yet frugal life.
Svend was ready for the long drive with his current-affairs podcasts. But as soon as the story began, he resentfully pulled his bluetooth earbuds out, and proceeded to get completely immersed in the story, the descriptions, the historical detail, and the fantasy of Farmer’s story.
She is a wonderful, magical storyteller. The story is based in the year 793, and centers around Jack, a Saxon boy of 11 living with his lame father and his wise-woman mother on the northeast coast of Britain. We hear of Vikings wreaking destruction on the Holy Isles, and we meet a survivor of that ordeal (Brother Aidan). But Jack finds a mentor in the Bard (who is sometimes described as a Pagan!) who teaches him about the life force and how to channel it. I won’t give away anymore, but if you love history, anthropology, fantasy, and religion, you will love this story.
We listened to the story almost without stopping (taking short breaks to explain to our child what a bard was, the history of the Romans, the Vikings, Britain, etc; why Jack’s father tells everyone else This is my house (patriarchy, etc.); and so on. The episode with the Bugaboos was a snooze, and excessively irritating, especially since it coincided with evening driving after a meal, when we were all tired and sleepy, and the Groundhog Day quality of the Bugaboo lives became a little too real for us. But everything else is magical.
After listening to Jim Dale’s narration of the Harry Potter series and the Peter series, I thought I would never love again. But Gerard Doyle is wonderful.
When we parked the car in front of our house, Svend hesitated before switching off the engine and asked, “Oh no. Now what?!” Now we’ll have to hang out in the evening and listen to the CDs at home until we are done! 🙂