Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review: Roverandom

J.R.R. Tolkien got his start telling stories to his children. This is an early example of how that worked and what his stories must have been like. I read it aloud to Aidan -- sometimes slow going and some big words that I had to look up ("autothalassic" for one; Tolkien, like Lewis, did not believe in talking down to kids!). But then you get this burst of imagination and description that just captures you like nothing else. The book is the story of a dog that was enchanted to become a toy, and the toy is lost on the beach by a little boy (Tolkien's second son, whom he calls "Little Boy Two"), and then the toy meets a sand-sorcerer, flies to the moon, goes under the sea, and ultimately meets a happy ending. Obviously only one of those clauses actually happened! The moon's a little barren in the description, but the under the sea scenes are vivid and lush. As a Tolkien fan I knew I had to read this, and even though it's by no means his best work, I feel like I know him a little better for having done it. A university professor with several small boys can do some surprising things in his spare time ... just another reason he's a hero of mine.

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