This week’s books to read aloud are the Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan. Now I have to be strictly honest here and admit we did not read them aloud. Our son (10) discovered them before we did, devoured them, decided he wanted to re-read them so often he wanted to own them and has since been buying them at second-hand bookshops or with birthday money. An online article reminded me that I want to know what my kids are reading and why it captures their attention, so I started reading them. Then my husband started. We have all enjoyed them.
It is the story of Will, an orphan raised as a ward of Redmont Castle in the country of Araluen. Having reached 15 he is to be apprenticed to learn a trade. He is chosen by the Rangers – a secretive group of men, who loyally serve the King by protecting the country. As Will comes to know and love his trainer, Halt, he is trained in archery, battle, horseriding and any skills a Ranger may need.
Reasons these books are good:
1. The author, John Flanagan, is Australian. Therefore we appreciate the humour in them. It is a dry wit and the characters don’t take themselves too seriously, most of which (I was pleased to note) my son understood and enjoyed.
2. While the entire setting is fictional, it is clearly an adaptation of England and Europe with Gallican knights over the sea, Skandian raiders over the sea to the north and Scotti raiders which come down across the land. In later books we meet nations who bear marked similarities to the Middle-East and Far East. For readers who understand the links there is humour here also. I would have loved to have read the Gallican knights voices in Book 2 with a Monty-python-esque French accent.
3. There are 11 in the series! You’ve got to love a good series for children. It has taken me weeks of solid reading to work my through them and I have really enjoyed them. Then there are three Brotherband novels set in Skandia when you finish.
4. They are very appropriate. Even though by half way through the series, the main characters are all adults and beginning to date and marry, their courtship is modest and gentle. It is also not the main part of the story, so boys stay very interested because there are lots of battles and problems to solve. I suspect this series would also appeal to girls who like some adventure, but who appreciate a little romance along the way.
5. There are strong themes of friendship, loyalty, honesty, courage and bravery. The Rangers are people you would be happy to have your children model themselves upon.
6. It seems that Flanagan first starting writing these books to encourage his son to read. There aren’t many better reasons I can think of to write children’s books.
A fun series – either to read with your children or read alongside your children.