I remember reading a quote from Andrew Peterson a good while ago where he said something to the effect of, “words have always been my steady girl.” Forgive the paraphrase…but what he was conveying was that although he makes his living with a guitar in hand, he and Lady Music — as much as they are together — do not share the same bond that he has with Words and Language.
If you know his music, you understand this perfectly. His lyrics can leave you breathless: rejoicing at one moment, weeping at another. So I was very excited to hear that he was planning to begin a fiction series (see?! I even blogged about it way back then).
North! Or Be Eaten is the second installment in the Wingfeather Saga. The books follow a set of three siblings, Janner, Tink, and Leeli, as they discover their hidden identities and flee for their lives from those who would have them imprisoned.
Peterson’s characters feel genuine, whether they are primary or secondary to the plot. Nia, the children’s mom, is the right mix of sympathetic generosity and firmness. Oskar, the rotund bookseller, never fails to make me laugh with his obscure quotations to fit — or not fit, as the case may be — the current situation. Janner, the oldest boy and main character, struggles to attain the nobility that he thinks he should have. How refreshing to meet a 12-year-old boy who is battling to overcome his selfishness and pride in order to better fulfill his role: to protect and serve his family and the world at large.
The themes are eternal ones: familial love; self-sacrifice; coming of age; longing for home (but for a home you’ve never seen); struggling to remember who you really are; the sense that you were made for another world. I’ve been in tears more than once as I find myself and my own struggles in the young characters.
As I mentioned above, Peterson is an excellent writer. Here’s a favorite quote from early on in the book, as Janner watches his little sister, Leeli, mourn the loss of their family dog, Nugget:
Janner remembered the day at the cottage when she thought the Fangs had killed Nugget. She had cried little and soon grown silent. That had been far more worrisome to him than the way Leeli now wept. She seemed older, no longer shocked that such a thing could happen in the world but heartbroken because it had. Her tears struck Janner as the right kind of tears.
More practically, the book lends itself well to being read aloud. The chapters are relatively short — about four pages — the perfect length for a bedtime reading, and they frequently end with some sort of cliffhanger that keeps the reader hooked. The footnotes deserve a review entirely unto themselves, since that’s where Peterson entertains the older kids and adults with tongue-in-cheek remarks.
Andrew Peterson has entertained and moved us with the stories his music tells. He is now showing himself to be an excellent communicator of Story in book form, crafting a world and a race that has much to say about our own. I highly recommend that you spend some time with The Wingfeather Saga.
You can find North! Or Be Eaten at the Rabbit Room store or wherever fine books are sold (I have ALWAYS wanted to say that!!!).
Also, would it be too presumptuous to think that you might want to attend a concert of Andrew’s?