Thursday, March 29, 2012

Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes
Jonathan Auxier
Amulet Books

Auxier must have grown up reading the greats--there is much in this book that reminds me of wonderfully told tales, great authors, and wildly inventive persons/places/things. I think it's a touch long--especially the first half, and I also had trouble buying into blind Peter's prowess at being able to navigate a strange castle in the midst of a battle--skilled though he was at sensing events and landscapes around him.

That being said, there is a lot to love in this quirky fantasy novel. It calls to mind Pinocchio (dogfish anyone? the notion of a "real boy" finally at the end), great battles in which the underdogs miraculously triumph (Helms Deep comes to mind), Peter Pan (not the least of which reminders include a prominent fishhook in action and the title character's name), Oliver Twist (poor chap taken in by master thief), anthropomorphic animals with noble or ignoble hearts (too many to name here, but the feel of Narnia comes to mind),.... There's another striking Narnia reference at the end, but I don't want to spoil anyone's fun.

All in all, this is just what a great children's fantasy novel should be--or, the very, very good start. Auxier, give us more! In this fantasy novel, we meet Peter Nimble as a thief working on behalf of his harsh master. No one knows his parentage, and the theory is that ravens pecked out his eyes as a baby. Through a strange turn of events, Peter Nimble finds himself embarked on a magical quest along with Sir Tode--a knight turned into part cat/part horse. Peter and Sir Tode have quite the series of adventures on their quest, sometimes using the Fantastic Eyes (one pair allows them to transport immediately back to the previous place the eyes saw, for example). The final pair of Fantastic Eyes is reserved until the end of the book; suffice it to say that they are a perfect fit for Peter's new role in the kingdom of HazelPort.

Some concerned parents may wish to know that there is some striking violence in this book. I didn't mind it in the least--in some ways, it's reassuring to know that bad guys (who are really, really bad and have just crunched someone up to eat him/her) also get their fair shrift; that war is bloody, but healing tears can sometimes wash that blood away; and that when right triumphs in the end, it is often at a cost. The tone regarding the violence is very matter of fact and there is not a lot of graphic description. It's just what you'd expect if a horde of angry apes is fighting to the death against a horde of loyal, magnificent ravens in a kingdom that had vanished but has now resurfaced....

In addition, this book is filled with some outstanding, quotable material. My personal favorite is this:

"Now, there is a wonderful thing in this world called 'foresight.' It is a gift treasured above all others because it allows one to know what the future holds. Most people with foresight end up wielding immense power in life, often becoming great rulers or librarians." (p. 181)

Book borrowed from my local library; cover image from goodreads; the author's blog; the Peter Nimble book site (which I haven't entirely previewed)

Things to Note/Discuss
  • How often do we turn down (or accept) help because of what the person looks like (like Sir Tode)? 
  • Are there hidden talents in those we come across that might not be readily discernible?
  • Who is your favorite character and why? Do you like the end: particularly the different roles Peg and Peter assume?
  • How do we know when the time has come to fight, and when the time has come to be still? There are examples of both in Scripture! (So, back your answer up)  
Watch the book trailer!

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