Thursday, March 12, 2009

Alas, the Last of the Wilderking

On Wednesday, during weekly Story Time at the Boys & Girls Club, I finished reading The Way of the Wilderking, the third book in The Wilderking Trilogy by Jonathan Rogers, and there were a few tears and sniffles at the end. Not only did the series close, but a couple favorite characters died, and one boy who had been a steady attender actually bowed forward in his chair, his face in his hands.

We started the school year with The Bark of the Bog Owl, followed by The Secret of the Swamp King, which we crammed into the short space just before Christmas, so the kids wouldn't have to wait two whole weeks to learn how the story ended.

The books are inspired by the life of King David described in the Bible, and certain elements are readily identifiable--a boy slays a giant with a stone, a powerful king befriends then betrays the youth, an army eventually grows up around the young man in exile--but Rogers puts several unexpected and downright fun twists in the tale.

I won't describe the plots, lest readers of this blog want to read the books for themselves, but the stories make excellent read-out-loud tales, especially entertaining for elementary students, though a few junior high kids wandered in to Story Time on occasion to find out what all the laughter and shouting was about.

I do all the voices, and I keep a clear space at the front of the room so I can pace and act out some of the motions while I read. Of course, acting out the story sometimes requires shouting, grand gestures, the occasional yodel or song, as the Wilderking books demand. One boy said, "This is almost like going to the movies," and someone else commented, "Usually, I only like books with pictures." There are pictures, small ones, at the chapter headings, but the trilogy is comprised of chapter books, so there are no full-page illustrations. There is a nifty map, though, at the front of each book, to help orient the readers to the story's events.

If yours is a family that takes long trips, like mine used to when I was a child, these books are perfect to read out loud in the car. They present life-truths wrapped in entertainment, acted out by vivid characters. Highly recommended reading!


Jonathan Rogers said...

A Google alert alerted me to this post. What a day-brightener! The scene you describe--you gesturing and yodeling and pouring yourself out for an audience of eager kids--is exactly what I'm hoping for when I write. And the boy who cared enough about the characters to be sad at the sad parts--a great encouragement. So thank you. I'll have another Corenwald-related book coming out in the summer of 2010 (working title: 'The Charlatan's Boy'), so maybe you and your kids can spend some more time with the feechiefolks then.

Keanan Brand said...

Hey, Jonathan! Thanks for stopping by and checking out the post.

I've been with the Club since 1997, but Story Time's only been around since about 2000. We started with The Hobbit -- I was more ambitious than smart, and didn't consider how hard some books might be to translate from internal to out-loud reading, especially for an audience that was growing up with more visual forms of entertainment.

However, your books have brought back a consistent audience every week, barring school functions, illness, and other interruptions to the kids' schedules.

Some of the children become so enamored of the stories, they tend to act them out with me. I'll see someone from the corner of my eye as they stomp when I stomp, or frown when I frown. Most distracting behavior I try to squelch, but the acting? It just tells me they're into the story, and it even starts to involve other kids.

Some of the boys have declared themselves feechies -- they're about the right height -- and the green kiwi-strawberry drink I've been buying for them to drink during Story Time is now "swamp water" in honor of the feechies' preference for it over clean water.

I'm happy to know there's another book in the works! Will readers be able to get involved without having to read the previous volumes? (I'm thinking of the kids who'll start attending later, and may not be familiar with the original stories.)