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We just finished the best new children’s book I’ve read in … a long while. The Green Ember by S.D. Smith is a book that certainly every parent should read to their child, and frankly adults should read for themselves.
Before I go on: Yes, it is a children’s book. Yes, those are rabbits. Yes, they have swords.
Listen, The Hobbit is a children’s book whose main character is a made-up creature with furry feet. It’s also a story that can be appreciated by all audiences. As C.S. Lewis said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” By the end of The Green Ember, you aren’t thinking “this is about rabbits with swords,” you’re thinking, “Go rabbits, Go!”
The storyline and the language are both superb. Too often children’s books — even books I quite enjoy, like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson — telegraph the heck out of plot twists, “secret” bad guys, and the like. The Green Ember is a fantastically told story with twists and turns that I did not see coming. The characters have depth and complexity. While some of the villains are thoroughly bad, the good guys aren’t overly simple. It’s a classic tale, but not a tired one.
Not only is it a great story, but it’s beautifully told. I got a lump in my throat every time I read,
“My place beside you, my blood for yours. Till the Green Ember rises or the end of the world!”
Chills, I tell ya! The language is not Lord of the Rings intricate, but it is richer than most modern children’s fare. Smith also doesn’t shirk from showing real consequences of battle and betrayal. More than once, I thought of the quote from Lewis, “Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”
Natalia will stand beside Narnia and Middle Earth as mythical places full of fascinating characters and the setting of timeless stories. And we have the opportunity to know it from its inception. Lucky us!
- If you buy the paperback from Amazon, the Kindle version is only $1.99 through the KindleMatch program. We just ordered The Black Star of Kingston, the prequel to The Green Ember. I’ll be honest, my kids were a little disappointed with the thought of a prequel. “But we want to know what happens next!” Personally, the hints he dropped make me excited to find out the backstory.
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- I discovered this treasure through the excellent The Read-Aloud Revival podcast. Sarah MacKenzie interviewed both S.D. Smith and the illustrator Zach Franzen. They are both worth a listen, but the interview with Franzen has a discussion on beauty and imagination that was wonderfully thought-provoking.
- Finally, I’ve seen this book listed as a Christian book/Christian fiction. It’s not anything like typical Christian fiction fare. It’s not even Christian in the same sense that Narnia is Christian. It’s Christian in the sense that Smith is a Christian and obviously pursuing truth, beauty, and goodness in his writing. It’s Christian in the same way that Tolkien’s or L’Engle’s works were Christian. Frankly, we need to get out of this habit of calling art by Christians “Christian art.” It tends to ghettoize the work, and it would be a darn shame if the whole world didn’t read this book. In closing: Go get this book! Right now!