Title: North! Or Be Eaten (Wingfeather Saga bk. 2)
Author: Andrew Peterson
Length: 323 pages
Plot Basics: (some spoilers, if you haven't read the first one...)
Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby thought they were normal children with normal lives and a normal past. But now they know they’re really the Lost Jewels of Anniera, heirs to a legendary kingdom across the sea, and suddenly everyone wants to kill them. Their escape brings takes them to the very brink of Fingap Falls, over the Stony Mountains, and across the Ice Prairies, while villains galore try to stop the Igibys permanently. Fearsome toothy cows and horned hounds return, along with new dangers: a mad man running a fork factory, a den of rockroaches, and majestic talking sea dragons.
Banter Points: Word Nerd seriously wishes that these books had been written when she was about 10-12 years old because they are absolutely endearing and full of the sort of inventiveness and imagination she craved around that age. But what makes it really great is that they are still a great read for an adult, a cross-over that doesn't always work.
Through the story, Peterson quietly lauds the virtues that we want children to possess -- honesty, loyalty, family, creativity, compassion for others, self-confidence, and an understanding that actions have consequences. While the story is a great page-turner with one narrow escape after another, these values (which also under gird Peterson's songwriting) are a firm foundation for the characters and a platform on which the whole story rests comfortably. It's nice to see a story for younger readers that isn't preachy about good characteristics, and doesn't extol lying (like Harry Potter), meanness (like all Gossip Girls books and their ilk) or the supernatural (like Twilight and the legion of of YA vampire books.)
In addition to the deeper roots of the story, Peterson just tells a darn good yarn. From the wildly inventive origins of Aerwiar to the soul-sucking fork-factory to the dramatic appearance of the sea dragons, Peterson has the pulse of a good story and keeps readers hooked.
Bummer Points: Word Nerd's not going to say why, but make sure you have a box of Kleenex handy at a couple spots through the story. Peterson pulls real emotions from his characters and since he makes them so lively, he brings the reader right along in the sorrows and triumphs of the Igiby children.
Word Nerd Recommendation: As with her recommendation on the first Wingfeather book, Word Nerd recommends these as a great read aloud pick for parents of older kids. Somewhere after Chronicles of Narnia and before introducing kids to Hazel and Fiver (of Watership Down) or Frodo and co., Janner, Tink and Leeli should be an enjoyable read.