Books Your Kid Should Read

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library." - Jorge Luis Borges

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The Dark is Rising Sequence

12 September 2008

The Dark is Rising Sequence
By Susan Cooper

I didn't stumble on The Dark is Rising sequence until I was a senior in high school, which is exceedingly odd if you know what my reading tastes were back then (and still are, if I'm being brutally honest). But it wasn't until I was living with my parents in Salzburg during the autumn of my senior year that I happened upon the books at the American Library. Desperate for some new leisure reading material (you can only pack so many books when you're traveling overseas for a semester), I took a chance on the books, and oh, how glad I am that I did! Cooper's books are firmly in the lineage of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, but set in the late 60s and 70s, so a little more modern. They deal with all the classic british fantasy themes: Arthurian legend, the eternal fight between good and evil, the alliance of mortals with forces beyond mortal knowing, etc., etc. Your standard stuff. But wow, is the writing ever good. These books will transport you to the shores of Cornwall; to Welsh farm country; to the coziness of a British village in the depths of winter. Old traditions like the building of the greenman and the legend of Herne the Hunter are effortlessly threaded through the plot, grounding it in British folkloric tradition. The main characters are the three Drew children, caught up in the fight between dark and light through their "Uncle" Merriman (a loosely disguised Merlin character), and Will Stanton, an 11-year-old boy who discovers on his eleventh birthday that he is the last of the "Old Ones," mystical beings who possess great magical powers and fight for the light. Sure, sure, it can sound hokey if you're a jaded Gen-X formerly hip parental unit. But if you're an imaginative 11-18-year-old, this stuff is pure magic. A great option for kids who've gotten through Harry Potter and are looking for something in the same vein.