The Legend of Everwinter is the first in a series of fantasy adventure picture books for children by new author, Tara Behan.
The book tells the story of Princess Adreana and her quest to save her kingdom from the terrible fire breathing monster, as described in a mysterious prophecy. Adreana has two brave companions to help her, but it is she who must carry the burden of the quest on her shoulders.
Despite being the first in a series, this is a satisfactory stand alone adventure story that finishes in a way that will reassure young readers and not leave them with cliff hangers to worry about.
The book is beautifully illustrated in a manga style by Matthew Hill. The pictures are quite ethereal and lend an otherworldly quality to the book that complements the story. The production quality of the book is high.
As a physical entity the book is more of a school reading scheme size than a traditional picture book publication. It’s good for small hands if your child wants to read it alone. It is less good as a book to share, say with a family, or a class, particularly as the font is quite small, so if you’re reading aloud, and you’re old like me, you can’t hold it too far away from yourself, which makes sharing pictures with your listeners that bit trickier.
The language of the book toggles between simple sentences that would suit a newly confident reader who is just finding their feet, and very sophisticated sentences and ideas that would suit an older, more confident reader better than a reader who is just making the transition from picture books to novels. My concern would be whether a reader who is capable of reading such sophisticated vocabulary would be that comfortable with this format of picture book. I would also worry that less capable readers might be daunted by some of the more complex language.
I do feel that it might work beautifully for a newly confident reader who is ambitious to read more, and who wants to push themselves, and who would be delighted by coming across something in the fantasy genre like this. It might well act as a stepping stone to help them access more sophisticated and established texts, like say, The Hobbit.
I would recommend this to both boy and girl readers. The fantasy adventure genre and the character balance means it is not too gendered, and therefore accessible as a choice for both boys and girls. It was really refreshing to come across a fantasy story where a girl is as capable as a boy of being heroic, and who genuinely saves the day.
As a book to be read by an adult to children I would recommend it to ages six and up, particularly if the adult is willing to explore the more challenging words and ideas in the text with the child/ren they are reading with. As a book for independent readers I would recommend this for seven to nine year olds. I’d question whether children any older would accept a book in this format.
To engage older readers, this would work better as a graphic novel.
I think the book could have done with being a little longer, with more back story and more character development. As this is a series, it would really benefit from the reader being able to access the characters as friends and/or people/creatures they can relate to in slightly more depth. The characterisation in this book is a little sketchy, but perhaps that will naturally develop and deepen as the series continues.