Over the past few years, I’ve read a ton of books to my three boys. It’s part of our nighttime routine to read a chapter or two of some book (along with a Bible story). We’ve read the Narnia books and The Hobbit more than a few times. We’ve read Pilgrim’s Progress (a kids’ version). We’ve read the great classics like My Side of the Mountain, The Hatchet, Swiss Family Robinson, Where the Red Fern Grows, Robinson Crusoe, James and the Giant Peach, and the list goes on (and on! I’ve actually thought about making a list to share). I generally don’t read newer Christian fiction books to the kids because they are typically cheesy – and the boys notice. Last year, however, I found a series of kids’ books that are Christian, but they are not at all cheesy: The Wingfeather Saga by musician/author Andrew Peterson. I learned about these books because I appreciate Peterson’s music.
So far, Peterson has written the first three installments of this four part series. They go in this order: 1) On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, 2) North! Or Be Eaten, and 3) The Monster in the Hallows. The fourth installment is forthcoming. Each book (so far) is between 300 and 350 pages. There are a few sketches in the books, a few maps, and other interesting reading aids. My kids loved looking at the maps and sketches (they wish there were more!). The books are solid and handsome; the publisher is to be commended for the quality of these books. They will last even if you and your kids read them several times (which you will!). They are also available on Kindle if you’re interested.
The main characters are a family that includes three kids who are approximately between the ages of 6 and 16. There’s also a feisty but loveable grandfather and a tender but strong mother. I appreciated how the family – though the book is fictional fantasy – had real life struggles and trials to work through. And they don’t always work through these trials in a perfect and predictable way. Even the kids fighting and arguing in the book is realistic (yes, I know a little about fighting and arguing. I have three boys!). I don’t want to give details because it will spoil the storyline. Suffice it to say the story is captivating. You won’t want to stop reading once you get into it.
One of my only complaints about the books is that they are not overly easy to read out loud. There are quite a few made up names, items, and places that are tough to pronounce. It is good writing, but takes some work to read aloud. My boys are between 6 and 10 – they understood it perfectly well (though I did have to explain a few things to our 6-year-old). Probably the ideal age group is 10-13.
In case you were wondering, I’d say the book is rated PG (if that’s how we’d rate books). The language is clean though sometimes strong and passionate (which captured my kids in a great way). There are some intense scenes of peril and fighting (which is a big part of the reason my boys love these books). There are also several discussions about love, evil, loss, and death which were really well done. Peterson also did a great job developing the characters. My boys easily identified with the two boys in this story. There are honest struggles of making the right but hard choice, helping others in need, and sticking with someone even when it’s not easy. Christian virtues are promoted, but in a wonderfully believable manner. There were a few points in the books where my kids connected the dots and understood love, forgiveness, “owning” your mistakes, and perseverance (to name a few).
I could go on, but I’ll keep this post short. If you want some quality reading material for your kids (or yourself!), I more than highly recommend The Wingfeather Saga. If you’d ask them, my kids would tell you these are their favorite books of all (they keep asking when the last one is coming out). And, as a Christian parent and reader, I too say these are my favorite kids books. I can’t give a “money back” guarantee, but if I could, I’d do it for these books! If you’ve read them, feel free to comment below and let our readers know your thoughts.
rev shane lems