The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia) by C. S. Lewis

Dawn Treader book review

Bonita Jewel’s Review:

Five Jewels

Five-Jewel Book!

For some reason, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader has always been my favorite book in The Chronicles of Narnia. As a young child, when I read mysterious words spoken to Lucy Pevensie at the end of the book (don’t worry, no spoilers), I felt magic and wonder infusing this world. I wanted to discover Him here, just as He had promised Lucy.

But I’m getting ahead of the story. It begins with one of my all-time-favorite first-sentences-of-a-novel: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” Eustace is the cousin of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. The two younger siblings are spending the summer with their aunt, uncle, and cousin – whom they call “Scrubb.” He does his best to torment them, and finds ammunition in his knowledge that they have a “pretend” country: Narnia.

One afternoon, Edmund and Lucy are looking at a painting in her room. A sailing ship in the middle of an ocean. The two are commenting on how much it looks like a Narnian ship when Eustace enters the room and starts teasing them. To his horror, the painting suddenly grows larger and begins moving. Eustace, Edmund, and Lucy find themselves standing on the frame of the painting and tumbling into the ocean.

The two siblings have returned to Narnia . . . and Eustace is their unwilling companion. Prince Caspian is now king of Narnia, and has embarked on a quest to find seven lords who disappeared when his evil uncle Miraz had sent them away to explore the Eastern Isles beyond the Lone Islands.

The companions discover much in the uncharted seas and lands beyond the known world of Narnia. Their greatest discoveries, however, are what they learn about themselves. A magical book. A lair of jewels. A figure of pure gold. What might such mysteries reveal? And will Aslan ever appear as Edmund and Lucy hope he will?

Recommended age: Six and up. This book welcomes discussion with younger children about selfishness, redemption, courage, and obedience.

Re-readability: Indeed!

 

Jessica Rose’s Review:

Five Roses

Five-Rose Book!

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is an amazing book. It is my favorite of the series with it’s quests, characters, and scenery. It gives us a tour of lands beyond the Lone Islands and it lets us see the wonders of the last sea. It also zooms in close to the temptations and feelings of its characters and the amazement that drives them on. I hope you will or have enjoy(ed) your voyage as much as I have.

Lucy Pevensie and her brother Edmund are sent to their aunt and uncle’s house while Susan their older sister is going with their parents to America because”she would get far more out of a trip to America than the youngsters” and the professor only had room for Peter who was studying for finals. They do not really want to go, as their aunt and uncle were “advanced” people with a son who liked beetles pinned on paper and long books about machinery. Edmund must share a room with Eustace so one day he escapes to Lucy’s room where they start talking about Narnia. Eustace starts making fun of their “imaginary” country because Edmund cannot punch him in his house. Then suddenly they fall into a painting of an ocean and a ship which is rapidly swallowing the rest of the room.

Lucy and Edmund find themselves in Narnia once more, along with their grumbling cousin. The ship called the Dawn Treader is the vessel of their old friend Caspian who has now become King of Narnia. He is sailing to find seven lords who alone were unafraid of the sea and were banished to it. With him sails Reepicheep, a small mouse with a big mission. To sail to the edge of the world and hopefully find Aslan’s country, following the signs of a rhyme spoken to him long before.

Adventure awaits them. They encounter a slave trader, mysterious invisible beings, a retired star, a tunnel of nightmares, and an enchanted pool. Through the many foes that await them perhaps the greatest are the ones inside – jealousy, temptation, pride, and anger. Will they make it to the end of sea, the utter east, Aslan’s country? Or will their hidden thoughts betray them?

Recommended age: 7-107

Re-readable: YES!

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Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia) by C. S. Lewis

Prince Caspian book reivew

Bonita Jewel’s Review:

Prince Caspian book review

Four-Jewel Book!

A year has passed since Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy returned from Narnia, where they reigned for years as kings and queens. They are on a train platform, preparing to separate from each other and return to school. No one is eager at the prospect.

One by one, they feel a strange and uncomfortable pull, but quickly realize it is magic and all hold hands. They find themselves standing in an overgrown wood not far from a sandy beach looking out on a dazzling blue sea. They discover, in the overgrown woods, ruins of an old castle, and come to realize that it is the castle they had lived in years before. Although only one year passed in England, hundreds of years have passed in Narnia.

When they rescue a dwarf about to be drowned by two soldiers, he tells them the recent history of Narnia, and of Prince Caspian. Since the four siblings left Narnia, a group of men called the Telmarines had taken over. They had gained such strong control that the talking animals and dwarves and fauns and satyrs had retreated into the furthest reaches of the forest and were now considered by the Telmarines to be myth.

Prince Caspian, the true king of Narnia, is the only hope of bringing peace and freedom to the talking animals and other creatures now in hiding. But he can’t do it alone. He needs the help of Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy – long-ago kings and queens of Narnia who, for many, have faded into myth.

Recommended age: Six and up. This series welcomes discussion with younger children about justice, belief in the unseen, courage, and faith to follow what you know is right even if you’re the only one.

Re-readability: Extremely re-readable!

 

Jessica Rose’s Review:

Prince Caspian book reivew

Four-Rose Book!

Prince Caspian, an orphan, as a young boy loved hearing stories about the Old World. The world of Narnia before the Telmarines conquered it, some say it is legend, some say it never happened, but a few people like Caspian and his nurse believe the stories are true. One day Caspian remarks about the old world to his uncle Miraz the King of Narnia and his nurse who told him the stories disappears. An old tutor takes her place. He teaches Caspian about many things but best to Caspian his tutor, Cornelius, teaches he about Old Narnia. One night high up on a castle turret Caspian discovers that Cornelius is actually half dwarf. The days pass and Caspian is being trained to become the king; for his uncle has no children.

One night Caspian is woken up by Cornelius. His tutor tells him to flee the castle because Caspian’s life is in danger. His aunt just had a son, and Caspian is actually the true heir to the throne. Miraz had murdered Caspian’s father the king, and he would kill Caspian too, so that his own son will gain the throne. Cornelius tells Caspian that he had found Queen Susan’s horn that will summon help when it is needed so Caspian must only blow it at great need. Caspian rides out into the dark night on his horse, equipped with a sword, a few supplies, and a magic horn. However a dark night can easily hide foes, future friends, danger, and protruding tree branches.

Yet all dark nights must soon end and with the morning might come new things, especially in a forest. Caspian meets two dwarfs and a talking badger; the badger who is a true Narnian says that to prosper, Narnia must have a human king. Caspian attends a secret meeting in the woods and his dreams come alive. The Telmarines had not destroyed all of Narnia there was more here then Caspian could ever have dreamed- a hidden refuge people in need of a king. Caspian can not do it on his own and soon after a terrible battle he sounds the horn. Messengers are sent out.

Will they find four kings and queens come out of the past? A great army? The Lion who saved Narnia with His own blood? Or four young children escaping school terms. With the help not what they had hoped will Caspian and the true Narnians ever get Narnia back? Or will they dwindle away past all dreams. Can they believe in the truth that has long since disappeared?

“Prince Caspian” is a wonderful book. It shows the importance of trust, and doing what is right even if everyone else is not.

Recommended age: 7-107

Re-readable: Beards and bedsteads, I should think so.

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The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia #3) C. S. Lewis

the horse and his boy book review

Bonita Jewel’s Review:

The Horse and His Boy

Four-Jewel Book!

I was seven or eight years old when my older brother told me the name of a horse: Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah. I thought it was hilarious and I had to meet the horse. The horse in The Horse and His Boy. Bree is a talking horse of Narnia who had been enslaved as a colt and grown up in a nation south of Narnia: Calormen.

Shasta is another name I found funny. I knew it as a brand of soda. But in The Horse and His Boy, Shasta is the boy. Shasta also lives in Calormen. The humble and hard life of a fisherman’s son is all he has ever known, but something stirs inside him every time he thinks of what lies to the North.

One night, Shasta and Bree meet, and they determine to make their way to Narnia and the North. The two make a few surprising acquaintances on their way and join up with another set of runaways, yet their journey is also beset by danger. One particular peril is the most feared by both Shasta and Bree: lions.

But they just might discover the lions that bar their way and complicate their journey are very different from what they feared. They might find every twist to their quest, every seeming wrong turn, is for a reason.

Recommended age: Six and up. This series welcomes discussion with children about purpose in problems and difficulty, humility, and courage.

Re-readable: Yes, even if only to reacquaint oneself, time and again, with the Lion.

Jessica Rose’s Review:

The Magicians Nephew

Four-Rose Book!

The Horse and His Boy takes place in the Golden Age of High King Peter, Queen Susan, King Edmund, and Queen Lucy’s rule. King Peter is away fighting giants, Susan and Edmund are in Tashbaan, and Lucy remains in the Narnian castle, Cair Paravel.

Shasta is a young boy living in Calormen. His father, Arsheesh, is a fisherman with dark skin like everyone else except for Shasta. Shasta often longs to know what lies North of his home; however, when he asks Arsheesh, he never gets the answer he wants. If Arsheesh is having a good day, he might tell Shasta to mind his own business, which is to do everything that needs to be done around the house including mending and washing the nets, cleaning the cottage that they live in, and cooking supper, or he might box Shasta’s ears. Shasta’s life is pretty uneventful until one day when a stranger comes to their house.

The stranger is a Tarkaan – a nobleman with a magnificent war horse. The Tarkaan goes inside to talk with Arsheesh, and Shasta is sent outside with a hunk of dry bread to sleep in the stable. While Shasta listens to their conversation, he finds out two startling things. One, he is about to be sold as a slave to the Tarkaan. Two, Arsheesh is not really his father. Shasta wonders out loud whether or not his new master will be kind to him. Surprisingly he gets an answer, even more surprisingly the answer comes from the horse. The Tarkaan’s war horse is a Narnian horse from the Northern land where animals speak. The horse, whose name is Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah advises Shasta to come with him so that they can both escape.

On the way, they meet two other unexpected travelers, Aravis and Hwin, while being chased by lions and together they will make their way to Narnia. First, however, they must pass through the great Calormene capital, Tashbaan. Almost as soon as they enter the great city, they are separated. Shasta is mistaken for an Archenland prince (a land near Narnia) and finds himself in the middle of a group of Narnian royalty trying to escape Tashbaan. Aravis meets a friend  and while she tries to leave Tashbaan, overhears a top secret conversation. The Prince Rabadash and 200 horsemen are going to attack Archenland without mercy.

They both must escape with help from their two Narnian steeds. They have a new mission. They must warn the King Lune of Archenland and save that country before Rabadash arrives. It is a race with surprising twists and turns as Shasta discovers his past, Bree becomes a wiser horse, Aravis faces her punishment, and the four companions hurry to Narnia and the North.

Recommended age: 7 and up

Re-readable: Yes.

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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia) by C. S. Lewis

the lion the witch and the wardrobe

Bonita Jewel’s Review:

Five Jewels

Five-Jewel Book!

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the most well-known book in Lewis’ Narnian chronicles. I remember watching a cartoon based on the novel when I was no more than four years old. I was horrified by the scene that showed the death of Aslan. I ran from the room, crying. How could those monsters kill the good Lion? Even as a young child, I knew there was something terribly wrong with that lion dying.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe begins with Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, four siblings, traveling from London to the countryside. To have a safe place to stay during World War II, they are sent to the grand home of an old professor. [Fun fact: Youths actually stayed with C. S. Lewis and his brother in the country during WWII.]

One rainy day, the children are playing hide-and-seek, and Lucy ducks into a wardrobe. Feeling for the back of the wardrobe, she keeps stepping further into it, but finds herself in a winter wood.

She meets a curious character, a Fawn named Mr. Tumnus, and discovers she is in a land called Narnia. She joins him for tea but when she returns through the wardrobe to the professor’s house, no one believes her, no time at all has passed, and the wardrobe is nothing but a wardrobe.

Edmund follows Lucy into the wardrobe one day, and discovers a different side of Narnia. He meets a beautiful and fierce queen who gives him a delicious warm drink and magically makes his favorite treat appear: Turkish Delight. She tells him she has a castle with rooms full of Turkish Delight, and promises him a position of power at her side. He just needs to return to Narnia with his brother and two sisters, whom this queen seems to show a keen interest in.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis explores the consequences of decisions, forgiveness, and redemption.

Recommended age: Six and up. This series welcomes discussion with younger children about sin, forgiveness, and Christ’s sacrifice to bring redemption.

Re-readability: Highly recommended on a regular basis.

 

Jessica Rose’s Review:

Five Roses

Five-Rose Book!

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe was the first book C.S.Lewis wrote in this series. It is often the first one read and is the most well-known among all seven.

Four siblings are sent to a professor’s house to be safe from the air raids in London. Any uncertainty or fear about the large, strange house vanishes almost as soon as they arrive. The professor is the sort of chap that would let you do anything, and as long as they didn’t disturb the housekeeper they could go almost anywhere. There would be stags, and badgers, and foxes to find in the woods nearby. However, when the first morning dawns, they hear the unmistakable sound of rain.

The siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy decide to explore the giant house. Who wants to sit around moping when there is a whole house to explore. There are spare rooms, hallways, a harp in a room of green, a suit of armor, libraries with books bigger then the Bible. The siblings are ecstatic, room after room after room they explore together until they reach a spare room, all it has is a giant wardrobe and a dead blue-bottle on the window sill. The rest leave but Lucy steps into the wardrobe, as she walks through it she finds it is much larger then she thought, she must have passed hundreds of coats by now, but as she goes on she finds herself in a wood. It cannot be the professor’s lawn, for instead of the bright sunshine of summer or the rain that drove them inside, there is snow – and a lot of it.  Lucy gets to explore the woods after all.

She encounters a faun (not the young deer type) and soon they become friends.  Lucy, after spending hours in that land called Narnia, quickly returns to the wardrobe so that no one will worry. When she catches up to her siblings, they say they have just come out of the room a moment ago so Lucy could not have been gone for hours. They are then convinced that she is making up a story after they show her the back of the cupboard.

One time Edmund follows Lucy into the wardrobe and meets the “queen” of Narnia. She is very interested in the fact that he has one other brother and two sisters. The queen promises Edmund that she will make him a prince and he will have rooms full of his favorite sweet if he bring his siblings to her castle as well. After the queen leaves, Lucy is overjoyed to find that Edmund has come to Narnia as well. She tells him some stories about the cruel witch who calls herself the queen of Narnia and makes it always winter and never Christmas. When they return, Edmund assures Peter and Susan that Lucy’s world is fake and they were just playing a little game. But soon they all discover Narnia.

Lucy’s friend is taken captive. An ancient prophecy is revealed. A traitor is in their midst. The witch’s spell is breaking. Aslan is on the move. But what is the cost of a traitor redeemed? Who can pay the dreadful price?

The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe contains an amazing parallel to the story of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.

Recommended age: 6-106

Re-readable: Most definitely!

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The Magician’s Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia #1) – C. S. Lewis

the magicians nephew book review

 

Bonita Jewel’s Review:

The Magicians Nephew

Four-Jewel Book!

“The Chronicles of Narnia” is a classic series that never grows old. I repeatedly read the series when I was young and couldn’t wait until my kids were old enough to read it with them.

Jessica and I read the books when she was six; I couldn’t tell you how many times she has read it since then. At least once a year. Probably more. I went through the series two years later with my son Allen, when he was six and seven.

My youngest, Aiden, is now seven, and we just finished reading The Magician’s Nephew, the sixth Narnian Chronicle that C.S. Lewis wrote, but the first in chronological order of the story itself. Jessica and I had a couple of conversations as to which story we wanted to review first. We’re starting with The Magician’s Nephew because we like things in order of chronology, although when I read the stories, I loved being surprised by reading it sixth, and learning of Narnia’s origin’s and the wardrobe’s back story after already diving into the world of Aslan.

In The Magician’s Nephew, a girl named Polly Plummer lives in a house joined to a row of houses. Next door to Polly lives an elderly brother and sister she knows as Mr. and Miss Ketterley. One morning, she sees a boy in the garden next door. A boy who looks like he had been crying. His name is Digory, and Andrew Ketterly is his uncle. Digory’s mother is near death, and his father is away in India.

Digory and Polly, exploring the attics one day, accidentally enter crazy Uncle Andrew’s study. He offers Polly a yellow ring, and as soon as she takes it, she disappears. Uncle Andrew, a self-proclaiming magician, tells Digory that Polly has gone to another world, and that if he wants to see her again, he must follow to bring her back.

With a yellow ring of his own, Digory finds himself and Polly in a place they call the “Wood between the Worlds,” a growing, living forest with trees and dozens of natural pools. With the green rings Uncle Andrew sent, the two friends can return to London, but Digory wants to explore the pools. What if each one leads to a new world?

The children find themselves in an aging world about to die … and in another world drawing its first breaths, a scene describe with lyrical beauty. But Digory brings evil from the old world into the new one. He must make things right again, when what he really wants is to make his mother well again. Digory fears that a powerful Creator who clearly can heal his mother might choose not to. The boy must decide whether to trust. And follow.

Recommended age: Six and up. The content might be okay for children younger than six; some younger kids might not express an interest in such a long story, and the subject matter might be difficult for them to follow.

Re-readability: Highly re-readable!

 

Jessica Rose’s Review:

The Magicians Nephew

Four-Rose Book!

The Magician’s Nephew is the first book of the “Chronicles of Narnia.” In the order that C.S. Lewis wrote them, it is the sixth. You can start with any one of the books but this one tells of the beginning of Narnia. It is a adventure that will take you from this world into three others along with Polly and Digory.

The story begins with Polly Plummer in the time that “Mr. Sherlock Holmes was still living in Baker Street … and as for sweets … how cheap and good they were.” Polly is in the back garden when Digory Kirke the nephew of the Ketterleys appears over the fence, his mother is dying, his father is away, he had to leave his beautiful home, and his uncle is most likely mad (the crazy kind). Polly intending to cheer him up tells him about her hideout that connects all the houses. They decide to sneak into the empty house, however, they make a miscalculation-and their adventures begin!

The attic they enter is not empty in fact it is the very attic that Digory’s aunt told him not to go into-Uncle Andrew’s study. Uncle Andrew lets them go out although he wanted them to stay but first he offers Polly a pretty ring. As soon as Polly puts on the ring she disappears (it is not the One Ring that Bilbo finds in The Hobbit). Digory is forced by his uncle to go after her and find her so that he can give her the return ring and when he arrives at the place he finds himself in a wood.

It is not any wood for it does not have any inhabitants and is filled with many, many pools. Polly and Digory call it the Wood Between the Worlds for that is exactly what the pools are-different worlds. As the adventure continues they explore two different world one that is dying and one that is bursting with life, enough life to grow a toffee tree from toffee that is in Polly’s pocket as they find out. However, there is also evil that lurks in one world that rises and arrives at their world.

The Magicians Nephew shows the importance of resisting temptation, doing the right thing, and repenting when you don’t.

Re-readable: Yes I have read it uncountable times and the series is amazing.

Recommended age: 7-107

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Below the Surface (Code of Silence #3) by Tim Shoemaker

Below the Surface Tim Shoemaker

Jessica Rose’s Review:

Code of Silence

Four-Rose Book!

Below the Surface is the third and  final book of the Code of Silence Series.  It wraps up the adventures of the four friends Cooper, Hiro, Gordy, and Lunk. It, as the two books before it, starts off with a bang! But as they try to solve the mystery, the new chapters have even more mysteries in store.

The friends are starting to take the vacation Cooper has been waiting for since the first book – a vacation on his dad’s cabin cruiser, The Getaway! But as Cooper and Gordy launch a prank on a nearby boat Krypto Night, their prank seems to backfire. Trouble starts as soon as Cooper leaves Krypto Night’s deck.

The fear Cooper thought he had buried last year rises up from below the lake’s surface when he goes under. Panic overtakes him, he cannot see, he cannot swim, he cannot sense anything but fear. When it passes, Cooper finds that he almost sunk the inflatable that Gordy was on. Almost dying in a flooded basement must have triggered it, but can Cooper stop it from happening again?

A few minutes later, the owner of the other boat arrives at Krypto Night with his girlfriend, who is holding a camera. Cooper and Gordy get on The Getaway just in time to witness the guy and his girlfriend – whom the friend have dubbed “Superman” and “Pom-Pom” – start arguing. Superman starts the boat’s engine and a flash comes from the water. Is it the camera the girl was holding? Pom-Pom must be in the water. Superman starts driving the boat like a madman, then stops as Cooper blows a horn.  Hiro calls the cops, and when they arrive, they ask questions that make the friends think Pom-Pom might have been murdered. But a girl walks up from the beach. Her name is Lynn and she matches the description of Pom-Pom.

Hiro thinks something fishy is going on, and that Lynn was not Pom-Pom. She suspects that Superman – A.K.A Tommy Kryptoski – is lying. That he hurt the girl in the boat … maybe even murdered her.

More strange things happen. Hiro discovers that Kryptoski has a babysitter who might be trying to clean up a mess. Cooper, Gordy, and Lunk think she is crazy, and that her cop intuition is getting over-imaginative. But soon all of them – even Hiro – will have to face their buried fears just below the surface.

Below the Surface has a good lesson, like the other two books in the series. Below the Surface tells how to deal with your fear as the four friends find out, “Fear can be buried… but that doesn’t mean it’s dead.”

Recommended age: Ten and up

Re-readability: Highly re-readable!

 

Bonita Jewel’s Review:

Tim Shoemaker Review

Four-Jewel Book!

Vacations were all about having fun – or running from something not so fun. Cooper needed this vacation to be about both. The fact that he was starting high school in a matter of days wasn’t what gnawed at him. Not really. It was something way deeper. Buried. And he intended to keep it there.

The first paragraph in Tim Shoemaker’s Below the Surface sets the stage for excitement and conflict, which drive the plot of this terrific novel. For anyone who has read Code of Silence and Back before Dark, Cooper is now a familiar and loved character, as are his three friends: Gordy, Hiro, and Lunk.

This book has a “final” feel to it, which brings mixed feelings; the four friends are about to start high school. Things are going to change. But at the moment, they are enjoying one final trip together – out on the lake in a renovated cabin cruiser. Determined and almost desperate to manufacture an enjoyable vacation, Cooper heads out with Gordy to perform a prank on a nearby boat. When their activity morphs into witnessing a dangerous, if not deadly, event, Cooper discovers that “something he’d buried months ago wasn’t really dead. And now it was rising from its grave.”

In Below the Surface, author Tim Shoemaker  delves into the nuances of fear – the healthy fear that can keep you safe … the hidden fears that lie below the surface … and the overwhelming fear that can paralyze you. He blends an adrenaline-laced plot with deeply dimensional characters to create an unforgettable finale for his Code of Silence series.

Recommended age: 10 +

Re-readability: I plan to reread the series in the upcoming year, this time with my 10-year-old son.

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Back before Dark (Code of Silence #2) by Tim Shoemaker

Back before Dark Tim Shoemaker

Jessica Rose’s Review

Code of Silence

Four-Rose Book!

Back before Dark is the second book in the Code of Silence Series. My cousin, Jenna (the one whom I convinced to read the books) asked me for the second book as soon as she finished the first book – a sign that the books are really good. The first chapter of Back before Dark leaves you hanging so you are hooked on to the book just when you first started it.

It starts with an ordinary bike ride to Walmart but turns out to be a nightmare come true. A minivan cruises down the parking lot with a backpack on the top. Gordy, trying to be helpful and win a bet that he can’t reach the van, manages to catch up to it before it turns on Meadow Drive. While Gordy is getting the backpack down like the driver asked, he is tasered! Cooper MacKinnon – Gordy’s cousin almost catches up, but is too late. Gordy is gone.

The police try to find the kidnapper and Gordy but when Cooper, Hiro, and Lunk arrive at the police station the minivan is nowhere to be seen. It could be in Wisconsin or Indiana by then. At school they get posters to give out and after school they check a few parking lots for the minivan to no avail. During lunch time at school one day Cooper is scheduled to meet with a psychologist who asks Cooper if his motivation is guilt. Cooper, having decided the previous fall to stop lying, admits that it most likely is; he should have biked with Gordy to the van, he should not have bet that Gordy couldn’t catch the van, he should have remembered the license number. The shrink says only superman could have stopped the kidnapping, but Cooper isn’t so sure.

It turns out guilt isn’t too good of a motivation after all. After a few close calls and bad experiences, Cooper begins to realize that. Almost everyone besides him thinks Gordy is dead, even his other two best friends. Hiro tries to stop him from doing all of the wrong things he is doing. She says, “A real friend helps keep his friend from walking into trouble,” while Lunk (who is behind a few of the crazy ideas) responds,” Or is willing to walk through the trouble with his friend if he has to.” Cooper finally gets rid of his motivation of guilt when he changes to a different one – Love. Dr. McElhinney tells Cooper, “Love is stronger than all [Greed, Power, Hatred, Guilt, Fear, Revenge] combined … it’s powerful … you must be careful and control it-or you can get in over your head.”

Hiro and Lunk are worried about Cooper after he tells them he has no more plans. Is it just uneasiness or is Cooper trying to do a terrifying plan without anyone again? Love is a strong motivation and Cooper could be planning to do something that if anyone found out – they would do everything in their power to stop him.

Back before Dark shows that love is strong and conquers all, and that sometimes rescuing a friend from the darkness means going in after them.

Recommended age: Ten and up

Re-readability: Very re-readable!

 

Bonita Jewel’s Review

Tim Shoemaker Review

Four-Jewel Book!

Back before Dark begins with Cooper, Hiro, and Gordy biking home one evening, their new friend Lunk bringing up the rear in his small BMX. Resting in the park before their final stretch home, Cooper spots a minivan driving slowly with a backpack on top. Hiro challenges Gordy to catch up with the van, and Gordy takes off after it. But something is wrong. First Hiro, then Cooper, sense it. Before they can catch up with Gordy, though, the driver shoots him with a Taser and shoves him into the van. Cooper’s cousin has been kidnapped.

Hiro feels she should have known better, or caught it sooner. Her dad was a cop, after all, and she wants to be a police officer one day. Lunk struggles with feeling accepted while wishing he could do something for Cooper – who had welcomed him into their small group. He wonders why he wasn’t taken instead; at least fewer people would miss him if he was really gone.

Cooper hates that everyone is acting like his cousin, Gordy, is gone for good. He knows he can’t give up searching, no matter if everyone else has given up. He begins to follow his own leads, and ends up getting himself into deep water. But the deepest water is what Gordy is facing. Alone in a flooding basement. If someone doesn’t find him soon, he’ll go under. Literally.

Cooper knows he’s no hero, but what if he’s his cousin’s only hope? And what if the only way to help a friend out of darkness is being engulfed by the darkness himself?

Author Tim Shoemaker creates realistic and down-to-earth characters that feel like friends by the end of the book. The reader experiences the struggles, thoughts, fears, and victories right along with Cooper, Gordy, Lunk, and Hiro. Morals are woven into the story without being “taught,” making for a thrilling, entertaining, and meaningful read for all ages.

Recommended age: 10 +

Re-readability: Yes, I plan to reread the series in the upcoming year, this time with my 10-year-old son.

Note for parents: This is a great book to read with your child, as it touches on important safety concepts. At the end of the book, you’ll find a section on safety and awareness.

 

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