Domestic life has rather gotten in the way of reviewing children’s books, and indeed, supporting children in schools with their reading, hence the hiatus.
I actually have some spare time today (whoo!) and thought I’d pop in and say hello, and that the blog is still active, albeit sluggish.
I’m about to review a newly published children’s book, but I have to read it first! So before I do I thought I’d talk to you about my experiences with my son and his reading of the Terry Pratchett Discworld books.
Oscar is eight, and his reading has come on at such a pace recently that he was beginning to get into a little bit of a rut with his reading choices. There are only so many Wimpy Kid, Tom Gates, Barry Loser books a child can read, and I noticed that although his appetite for books was still voracious, he wasn’t adding much to his vocabulary or stretching his comprehension much.
This is fine for his own, personal reading. I don’t care if he reads Tom Gates a thousand times, as long as he’s enjoying himself, but there comes a point in terms of academic progress where children can sometimes need a push. I decided to order the first two Discworld books by Terry Pratchett and see what he made of them for his school reading books.
He loves fantasy material and things magical. He also enjoys humorous books, so I thought they might be a hit, but it has been a long time since I read the first books (I was about fifteen) and I wasn’t sure if they would a) hold his interest, b) be suitable in terms of what he could understand or c) be suitable in terms of more adult material.
I am putting the first two books together as they are actually one story. It starts with The Colour of Magic and concludes with The Light Fantastic. The story sets the whole scene for the Discworld, so there is much more set up than there is in the later Discworld books, some of which is heavy going in terms of vocabulary and comprehension, especially if you’re eight. He was interested enough to stick with it though, and once he’d grasped the principles and the key words he was well away.
The rest of the story focuses on the failed wizard Rincewind, who only knows one spell, the one spell which may turn out to be the most important spell on the Disc. Rincewind meets a tourist, the very first tourist the Discworld has ever known, and through a series of complex misadventures manages to end up as the tour guide for Two Flower, a trusting, naive and wealthy stranger, and his magical luggage made of sapient pear wood, with hundreds of tiny feet and a penchant for eating strangers who threaten his master. Between them, Rincewind and Twoflower, bumble across the face of the Disc, nearly being killed on numerous occasions and meeting a whole host of characters who will and do, pop up in the next forty odd books of the Disc series.
The first two books are not as funny or clever as the later books, but everyone has to start somewhere, and they are funny and clever enough to entrance my son, who has thoroughly enjoyed reading them. He has learned a lot about puns, a lot about satire, a great deal about barbarians and not a little about scantily clad ladies.
On that point, they are not entirely suitable for pre teens in that they do mention naked ladies, have swearing in, and contain quite a few double entendres. On the other hand, none of it, in my opinion, is too terrible, and certainly nothing they wouldn’t learn in a playground, plus my son is delighted to have a legitimate reason to say ‘bugger off’, and it keeps him glued to the page for when the next swear word hoves into view.
I would ideally recommend them for children aged 12 and up. If you hook them now, you’ll get them for life. Don’t be fooled by buying Pratchett’s books that are marketed just for children. They’re some of the most complex, thoughtful, philosophical and mature of his works, and if you want to introduce your children to the Disc, just start them here, at the very beginning.
Enjoy the ride.