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The Hobbit, or There and Back Again
GeekMom Book Club > Week 1 Questions

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Mandy (chaosmandy) We've made it through the first week of the GeekMom Book Club! I'm going to be posting questions every Monday to keep our discussions going.

For this week, I pose the following questions:

Tolkien intended The Hobbit to be a children’s book, though I don’t really think it’s viewed that way today. How does The Hobbit stack up against modern children’s books as far as the scary factor and being appropriate for children. And if you have children, what age would you feel comfortable reading The Hobbit to them.

Corrina Lawson | 2 comments Mod
The dwarves and the singing are fun at the beginning, it's not until the goblins in the second half that it gets really scary. I'd say...maybe five or so?

Mandy (chaosmandy) I was thinking about it last night and I'd answer 5 or 6. I don't really think of The Hobbit as a children's book though. Maybe YA - but I don't think that was really a genre back in Tolkien's time.

I'm guessing I was 4 when my dad started reading me LOTR. It was before I could read and I can remember it.

Lori Watson (loriwatsonstories) I think it depends on the child. My kids are not easily scared and I think my youngest was about 5 when we last listened to this via audiobook. This time I'm reading it aloud, but my kids are now 10-16 so there's no worry as far as scare factor.

Bettina | 20 comments I agree on the age range. I have a 7, a 5, a 2, and a newborn and I think the 5&7 year olds could handle it. First, though, we're going to read the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which has less difficulty.

Mandy (chaosmandy) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is a good one too for kids. Another one of my favorites!

message 7: by Autumnglory (last edited Feb 27, 2012 06:46PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Autumnglory | 4 comments "Chaos" Mandy wrote: "We've made it through the first week of the GeekMom Book Club! I'm going to be posting questions every Monday to keep our discussions going.

For this week, I pose the following questions:


Hmmm... I got my hands on the book when I was eight, and have read it repeatedly since. (This has given me the chance to break out my ginormous hardocver red leather volume!) The giant spiders scared the bejeebers out of me then, and still do now. Of course, so do normal sized spiders. It was the TV special that did me in, though... reading about the goblins and spiders didn't scare me; SEEING them scared me!

I don't think the scare factor would be as much an issue with younger kids today as the pace and the exposition. My sixth grade students, for the most part, have precious little patience (no pun intended) for extended narrative or description - if it isn't moving fast, full of action, replete with humor, or full of romance, too many will drop it in a heartbeat. All the same, every year I have a handful of kids who DO pick it up and love it - mostly the quieter, more bookish ones. This year, with the movie coming out, more are trying it and giving it a fair shake. Which is to say that they aren't dropping it as quickly - but one boy told me that he prefers THE HUNGER GAMES, because this feels "old fashioned."

Personally, I'd read it to my 5 year old son in short stages, if he had the attention for it (he didn't when we tried Harry Potter, but is hooked on Magic Treehouse). I plan to try when he's 7 or 8.

Callista Knight | 7 comments My 7 year old started reading the Hobbit on and off over the summer while she was 6. The problem is that we have the leather-bound edition and it's not very portable, so she has to read it at a desk or table. She does most of her reading on the go she hasn't been reading it very much. I would read it aloud to any of my kids, even my 2 year old. I think there is something different about reading a book aloud though. With your Mom or Dad's voice the scary stuff is toned down by the comfort of having it read by someone who looks out for you.

My kids probably won't see the movie, I'm sure it will be too scary and gory.

Autumnglory | 4 comments Bettina wrote: "I agree on the age range. I have a 7, a 5, a 2, and a newborn and I think the 5&7 year olds could handle it. First, though, we're going to read the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which has le..."

CLASSIC! If you don't want to try the entire novel, there is a LUSCIOUSLY illustrated picture book version that my son adored (I love what I find at GoodWill sometimes!). For something more modern, you might try THE MAGIC TREEHOUSE - though to be fair, I found that the writing in the first, say, 20 or 25 books was greatly lacking, IMHO. Sentence fragments galore, very bland description. I very nearly gave up on it, but my son found a hardcover of BLIZZARD OF THE BLUE MOON and I found that the writing had improved as the series matured. What I also like now is that each volume comes out with a nonfiction companion - a nice plus, as the national teaching standards are trying to up the amount of nonfic kids read.

My 5 year old son also enjoyed MY FATHER'S DRAGON, the Young Classics editions of DOCTOR DOOLITTLE and THE JUNGLE BOOKS, and an adorable, but often overlooked, retelling of THE RELUCTANT DRAGON called KENNY AND THE DRAGON by Tony DiTerlizzi. The main character's name is Kenneth... the dragon is Grahame. LOL...

message 10: by Sky (new)

Sky Thibedeau (skylarkthibedeau) | 4 comments I think the Rankin Bass Cartoon of it is a bit scary for youngsters. If a child can handle Dragons, Spiders, and Goblins with silly songs they could handle the book without bad dreams.

It was written for Tolkien's children but kids in those days were used to the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson which in the original non disney forms were quite scary.

Chickenstitch | 5 comments I first read this book fairly young I think about 7-8 years old. I loved it and don't remember being scared but my Dad did used to tell us his own made up stories that had goblins and other evil beings in. I don't think it is any scarier than some of the Harry Potter books.

Lightning | 2 comments This will be my first time reading the actual book and I'm very excited. I first saw the cartoon version (on Disney I think?) fairly young. I think I was around 8 when my parents let me watch it. It was a little scary, but it didn't give me nightmares. Maybe the book is scarier than the movie? I guess I'll have to find out soon... then I'll decide what age it might be appropriate for DD or DS.

message 13: by Jason (last edited Feb 29, 2012 02:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jason | 1 comments I am not sure if you want links in this discussion, but I wrote a blog post some time ago touching on these very issues in the Hobbit. (http://papernapkinsontheedgeofinsanit...)

My favorite quote on the issue is from Maurice Sendak. He said, "You mustn't scare parents. And I think with my books, I managed to scare parents," [earlier children's authors] "went by the rules that children should be safe and that we adults should be their guardians. I got out of that, and I was considered outlandish. So be it."

I think it all depends on the modern author. I remember being scared by a few books when I was a kid, but not terrified, it was the suspense. It's a good thing, it kept me reading. Different kids are scared by different things. For some it is monsters, but sometimes it is the separation anxiety. How many kids books have you seen that are scary because the kids must "save the adults" on their own?

My daughter is reading it now as a first grader on her own and I am fine with that. I might even read it out loud to a child younger than that.

message 14: by Cara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cara (thinkc) | 4 comments I could see reading it t y daughter around age 5, but I think it depends on her tolerance for scary stuff. It didn't strike me as too scary though. I can definitely see that the pace might be a bit much for some younger readers though. It takes a while to pick up.

Some parts especially seem a bit grown up for little kids. Not in a racy or gory way, but just that they might not really get it. Like when Bilbo meets Gollum in the caves. I think the riddles and evil intent of Gollum would probably go over a lot of kids' heads.

Bettina | 20 comments Ok, I just finished the book and I can say for sure I would have no problems reading it to my 5 and 7 year olds. Certainly reading a book is less frightening than seeing a movie with the dramatic camera angles and ambient music. I didn't find it particularly slow at any part - actually I think the pacing is pretty dang good which has me impressed all over again with Tolkien's writing skill.

Rockinlibrarian | 10 comments Just realized I didn't comment over here yet.

I think the issue is not so much about "scary" as much as "will your kid really appreciate this yet, or might they more in a couple more years, and you could be taking the time to read them something a little less complex but still wonderful now?" My son will be 5 in April, and no way I can see him getting into this yet. I was thinking 7 or 8. It's going to happen someday (he's named after a hobbit for crying out loud-- though we probably won't do THAT book aloud until he's, like 10), but for now we've got a lot of other books to get through. There's no hurry. He's not coming to the movie with us this December. Meanwhile there are so many excellent books that a preschooler will be able to follow much more easily. Someone above mentioned My Father's Dragon-- EXCELLENT, EXCELLENT choice for introducting your preschooler to fantasy. That was actually my son's first chapter book read-aloud-- he loved it. It's just the right amount of danger and full of clever problem-solving, and your hero is a child, as opposed to a middle-aged (although very short) man.

I'm not disparaging the idea of reading The Hobbit to your kids-- actually I think it's BEST as a family read-aloud. Just more for kids who have had some more experience with a ) long books and b ) fantasy tropes than kids who are only just starting to get into these things.

message 17: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy Baten | 14 comments I think "Hobbit" was a children's book at the time it was written. Society has changed therefore books have changed. I think that the length of the book is "scarier" to children nowadays since everything is so fast paced. Luckily my child has a wonderful bookworm gene and he reads all kinds of books at all ages. So my answer is when you know your kids are ready is when it's appropriate!
P.S. How much are we supposed to be reading? Chapters a week,month,day? I'm new to the whole book club deal :)

Mandy (chaosmandy) I think everyone is probably going at their own pace right now - just try to be done by the 26th - that's when I'll post the questions that pertain to the whole book and may have spoilers.

message 19: by Amy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Amy Baten | 14 comments Thank you! I should be done before then. I was in a car wreck and the doctor said go slow and light lifting. A book seems to be light lifting. I got "Hobbit" on e-reader so it'll be lighter :)

Mandy (chaosmandy) I'm sorry about the car wreck! Feel better soon!!

I've been reading The Hobbit while I have been exercising so I'm a little behind myself.

Patricia (vollmerdp) | 15 comments Mod
I wholeheartedly agree with Amy (Message 17 and 19). This was a children's book back when there was less clear definition of what is appropriate for children. If it was for Tolkien's children, consider that they were likely already exposed to the storylines for his other novels.

Which leads me to wonder about other books that were for "children": The Wizard of Oz, Grimm's Fairytales, etc. Sure, it could scare kids, but I have a child who was scared of the movie "Cars".

It's all relative, that's for sure! It reminds me of this GM post ChaosMandy wrote a couple weeks ago:

Mandy (chaosmandy) I didn't even think of that post when I came up with this question, Patricia *L* But it is a good tie-in.

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