Willem has been given special homework – to make two ‘real friends’. But it’s difficult when he has difficulty communicating with people his own age aWillem has been given special homework – to make two ‘real friends’. But it’s difficult when he has difficulty communicating with people his own age and most of the boys he knows are engaged in an ongoing gang war. Sasha is angry with herself for playing along when Willem is being bullied. And Finn is just angry, angry at the situation he’s in, angry that he can’t seem to find a way out. When they meet Archie and his several forms of magic – cars, community, music and an old Spitfire plane – things finally start to move in the right direction.
There were a lot of things that I really enjoyed when it came to the plot of this book. Spitfires are my favourite vintage aircraft (we got to see a pair fly when we visited an airshow in New Zealand in 2011 – I highly recommend it) so I loved seeing the Spitfire play such an important part to the story. I loved the recognition of the women who ferried planes during World War Two. I also really liked the setting – the cycle of rivalry and disadvantage felt really authentic.
I just wish the writing had lived up to the promise of the story. It just didn’t flow the way I wanted it to, and it distracted from the story telling at times. There were occasions where there was too much plot – a romance story from World War Two felt a little too much, and the story would have been just as strong without it.
I thought that Willem’s Asperger’s Syndrome was dealt with well, too. The story alternates between his narration and Sasha’s and it actually helps create a good picture of what’s happening in his head and what outsiders can see. It was interesting to see a story where the main character’s disability was important, but it shared importance with the other stories going on. There’s always room for more stories with characters with disabilities, and I think there’s scope for some contrast and compare talk between Willem and other books featuring characters with disabilities.
So I've finally finished the published Ranger's Apprentice books (don't fear - John Flanagan pointed out in the talk I was at on Thursday that there wSo I've finally finished the published Ranger's Apprentice books (don't fear - John Flanagan pointed out in the talk I was at on Thursday that there will be at least one more). I'll start with my thoughts on the Lost Stories and then move back to the series as a whole.
This is a series of short stories covering everything from how Will's parents really died, through to random adventures through to more important milestones. The stories are short and easily digestible, which was good because there were some I liked more than others. While these stories fill in some holes, they also create a few more which is also fun for any reader young or old. I particularly liked the way the stories were bookended with the story of an archaeology dig in the 19th century uncovering the stories.
As for the series as a whole - well I can understand why they're so popular with my students now. They are fantasy - but like Harry Potter, they're set in a world close enough to ours to be easily relatable. They're set in a medieval-like world, which brings the knights and princesses which are so fascinating - but the world is fantastical enough to allow women to take on greater roles and conditions to be a little more palatable. There's adventure, grizzled mentors, humour and great friendship. All in all, a great series for both boys and girls to read, and one that many adults would probably enjoy as well....more