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William, age 5, reviews two books

May 22, 2010

I have just sent off reviews of two of Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House books, illustrated by Philippe Masson and published by Red Fox, to the Historical Novel Society.

I try to find a child of a suitable age to review as well and have recruited William, age five. His mother said in her email: These are William’s thoughts; I have ordered them slightly and added a smidgeon of grammar, but that is all.

 Here is a sneak preview of his review of Voyage of the Vikings, set in 1st century AD Ireland:

I read the story with Mummy. I read a bit, and then she read a bit. There are lots of words that were exciting to read like ‘sea serpent’ and ‘jewels’. Brother Patrick was friendly and the monastery was not like anywhere I had been. The Vikings were a bit scary. Mummy thinks that they would be less frightening if you got to know them, but I am still glad that Jack and Annie got away.

When we finished the book, I asked if we could go to Ireland to see where Brother Patrick came from. I wanted to know what happened to the monks after the Vikings landed. Did they escape? I hope there are still sea serpents in Ireland.

He had this to say on Olympic Challenge, set in the 4th century BC in Ancient Greece:

The chariot racing was fantastic and I liked the bit when the winged horse from the lost story (Pegasus) came and rescued Jack and Annie. The pictures in the book were good and helped me imagine what it would have been like in ancient Greece; they dressed in long robes and some of the people wore armour for the Olympic Games.

I didn’t like it that girls couldn’t play in the Games because my friend Nieve is a girl and she is a very speedy runner, much faster than me.

What I found interesting was William’s concerns. His experience is, naturally, limited, and he notes things that are new to him – the Celtic monastery, for example, and the clothes the Ancient Greek men wore. He’s understood that different times have different customs – such as girls not taking part in the Olympic games – and is able to empathize with his little friend Nieve, who would not have been able to take part because of her sex.

As a writer myself, I’m pleased to note that he enjoys words such as ‘sea serpent’ and ‘jewels’. His mother reports that he’s now very keen to go to Ireland and see a Celtic monastery for himself – and is especially eager to see a sea serpent. Plainly, William’s imagination is in excellent working order!

Three cheers to Mary Pope Osborne and her splendid illustrator, Philippe Masson, for so successfully stimulating a small boy’s interest and imagination.

Elizabeth Hawksley

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2010 9:04 pm

    It is really interesting to read the feedback by William (aged 5). Just great to think that there are children who are so keen and want to go and see something they have read about. I, too am happy to hear that he enjoys the interesting words. Thanks for this post, Elizabeth. Odette

  2. Lorna permalink
    May 30, 2010 10:01 pm

    Not sure about sea-serpents in Ireland, although minke whales and dolphins are common off the North Antrim coast – I’ve seen them.

    I might have seen a sea-serpent, too, but I think that was after a few glasses of Guinness…

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