“Evil digs a pit, and the Maker makes a well. That is His way.” Artham Wingfeather in The Monster in the Hollows
In March, my girls and I went to hear Andrew Peterson speak to a group of children about The Wingfeather Saga, and his recently released third book in the series, The Monster in the Hollows. My family is no stranger to his gift with story telling as this modern-day, lyrical minstrel has been weaving some of my favorite tales for many years with his guitar.
Sometimes it is difficult for one to alternate artistic mediums, but Andrew has done more than entertain with his first attempt at fiction. Just like with his music that moves and stirs, he has created a story line and characters that stay with you long after the last page is turned. This series is unique in that he has successfully created an experience that engages the hearts and minds of young and old alike whether you are a student, single, or married with or without children.
As Andrew spent the afternoon with us, discussing the writing process and the perils of encountering creatures like Snickbuzzards, Bomnubbles, Toothy Cows, and Horned Hounds, the excitement in the room was palpable. But, it was when he read aloud from a section in Book 1, that we came completely under his spell. Which is how all great stories start…..from the beginning.
In book 1, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, we are introduced to the Igiby family, and consequently characters who are easy to identify with because of their honest struggle with matters of the heart. The mother, Nia, is living in a small cottage by the sea with her three children and one-legged, rough edged, ex-pirate of a father, Podo Helmer.
Janner, 12, is not unlike most first-born children. Being fatherless, he bears the weight of responsibility for his siblings on shoulders that do not feel strong or old enough for such a burden. He is thoughtful and has a deep longing to know the father no one will even mention by name.
Tink,11, is the middle child. Like most younger siblings, he has the luxury of questioning rules and plunging head long into trouble without a second thought. He is funny and very likeable, but finds himself making choices with great consequences for himself and for the family.
Leeli, 9, is my favorite. She is the youngest but by no means the “smallest.” Though injured after birth that left her leg lame and crippled, she carries a song inside of her that can make Sea Dragons stop to listen and remember.
At first glance, this family is not unlike the others living in the land of Skree. All residents struggle day-to-day under the oppression of the wicked, Gnag the Nameless and his dutiful, merciless hoard, the Fangs of Dang. But, upon further notice, you see the Igiby’s are far from ordinary. Only the three children do not know it yet.
So begins a journey of discovery after finding a map, a storehouse of weapons, a hidden jewel with a royal insignia, an odd man who wears socks on his hands, and a new name of distinction that belonged to their father who was lost in the Great War: Wingfeather.
At the book signing, Andrew let it slip that in North! or be Eaten, which won the 2010 Christy award for young adult fiction, Gnag the nameless has discovered an eerie way for the dastardly, lizardly Fangs to overcome their inability to with stand the cold. This is discouraging as book 2 begins with the Igibys, now known as Wingfeather, trying to avoid capture by setting out for the safety of the Ice Prairies.
That is, of course, if you consider a frozen land of Bomnubbles as “safe.” This segment will challenge the reader as one character’s fateful decision will alter the face of the Wingfeather family forever. Such a great tale of sacrifice and loss and courage and love, that even our four-legged family member enjoyed the reading of this book.
As for book 3, The Monster in the Hollows, we have yet to finish even though an autographed copy was shipped to us from the Rabbit Room two weeks ago. Our slower pace is not due to an arduous story line. On the contrary, I think this book may be my favorite. It is because we have chosen to do this series as a family read aloud and walking with the Wingfeathers has proven to be as good as finding out what happens in the end.
What drew me to Andrew Peterson’s music so many years ago was finding someone who was able to articulate, in rhyme no less, the love of God in a world that is hurting. Sometimes a life of faith is a difficult journey, which will be true for our children as well. But, that does not mean the Lord is absent or unmoved by our struggles. It would be easy to assume at times that He is cold and unfeeling when life gets hard, but it would simply be untrue.
In fact, those are the moments when God can show up in our lost places to rewrite our own stories that would have otherwise ended in death. That is the hope that we have in Christ’s redemption, and Andrew is one of the best artists I have ever encountered who can communicate that truth so profoundly. He uses his gift with words and translates this beautiful reality it into fictional series that my children can hold in their hands, and I am so thankful.
So, as you are considering summer reads for kids ages 10 and up, I would highly recommend The Wingfeather Saga. But, I would also encourage you to go on this adventure with your kids by reading the series aloud together. The chapters are short, yet captivating. It provides wonderful content for relevant discussions on themes such as forgiveness, courage in the face of fear, being drawn into a story that is much bigger than yourself, difficult relationships, disappointment, consequences of our sin, having compassion for the seemingly “unloveable,” and being remade out of a brush with darkness.
Besides, what greater journey can you go on alone or as a family than one that is an allusion to the Great Story. And, who knows, you may even find yourself in these pages, like this 37-year-old wife and mother did, as you take a walk with the Wingfeathers.
“Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul.” Emily Dickenson