September 25, 2014 by Heidi
Henry Holt Books for Young Readers is proud to publish this 50th Anniversary Edition of Lloyd Alexander’s classic The Book of Three, the first book in the Chronicles of Prydain, with a new introduction by Newbery Honor–winner Shannon Hale. This anniversary edition is filled with bonus materials, including an interview with Lloyd Alexander, a Prydain short story, the first chapter of the next Prydain book (The Black Cauldron, a Newbery Honor book), an author’s note, and a pronunciation guide.
Title: The Book of Three [Goodreads]
Author: Lloyd Alexander
Standing: The Chronicles of Prydain Book 1
Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: September 23th, 2014 by Henry Holt & Company
Format: Hardcover or Paperback; 240 pgs.
Source: Review copy from publisher.
Taran wanted to be a hero, and looking after a pig wasn’t exactly heroic, even though Hen Wen was an oracular pig. But the day that Hen Wen vanished, Taran was led into an enchanting and perilous world. With his band of followers, he confronted the Horned King and his terrible Cauldron-Born. These were the forces of evil, and only Hen Wen knew the secret of keeping the kingdom of Prydain safe from them. But who would find her first?
My first experience with Lloyd Alexander and The Chronicles of Prydain didn’t come for me as a child as it does for many. Rather, my first experience sprang through a college girlfriend tradition we dubbed “Disney & Donuts”. Every Sunday morning we would cozy up with fresh Krispy Kremes (oh how I miss those babies) and a classic Disney movie of one sort or another. One day a girlfriend showed up with The Black Cauldron, Disney’s 25th animated feature; I hadn’t heard of it let alone seen it. She’d bought it for a friend with kids, who gave it back to her worried that it was ‘too scary’ for her kids to watch. Needless to say, that sold me and I was in. Friends, it was shocking. It was unlike any other Disney animated film I’d yet seen–it was much more akin to my beloved The Last Unicorn and The Hobbit animated features than the damsel in distress princess tales of earlier Disney days. I couldn’t believe I’d missed out on it. However, bogged down in homework as college students tend to be (followed by life in general), I never had the opportunity to seek out the stories the movie was based from. Luckily, with the coming of the 50th Anniversary of The Book of Three I was spurred into action and found myself finally wrapping myself in Prydain for the first time.
The Book of Three was everything I had hoped for, earning its place as a classic staple of children’s fantasy along with the aforementioned tales of Tolkein and Beagle. It had a tongue-in-cheek humor about it that I quite loved as an adult (I hope to one day convince my children that my napping is deep soul-searching meditation), and a sweeping journey that captured the child of my heart. Unsurprisingly, it lands in the ‘I wish I’d had my hands on this when I was a kid’ category, because I can’t help but knowing I would have loved it even more in my youth. And yet, there was wisdom here that would have been lost on my childhood self.
To me, The Book of Three could effectively been retitled “Much Ado About a Pig”. Sure, the Horned King would have been terrorizing the countryside without Hen Wen’s involvement, but it’s because of this oracular pig that Taren leaves his home and journeys forth into the world for adventure. It is because Taren is an assistant pig keeper that we have The Book of Three.
I love that Taren was such a fallible hero, it’s that more than anything which makes him real. He’s a wee bit sexist (don’t you worry, the stalwart Eilonwy will set him strait) and falls into traps even knowing what they may be ahead of time, but he’s unassuming, admits his mistakes, and gives credit where credit is due. Taren recognizes that it doesn’t truly matter who does what in a cause, as long as you’re all working together toward a common goal.
Of course, Taren would have gotten nowhere without an excellent supporting cast. Eilonwy with her matter-of-fact-don’t-take-no-crap-from-no-boys ways, Gurgi with his crunchies and munchies–a walking beaver damn, who, much like Sméagol, has lost the wisdom of animals but does not yet have the learning of humankind (though he’s also significantly less of a creeper). Gwydion and Fflewddur Fflam, the hero prince and the bard king–I adore them all. Even the villains are memorizing in their terror.
Not particularly based on, but certainly inspired by Welsh mythology, Alexander creates a world that is rich in its lore and fantastical ways. He has a way of piecing together so many scenes in a limited space that seems effortless, when in fact it is art. The Book of Three is a story that shows us that you never really appreciate home until you leave it, but also that you can’t go home again, no matter how you wish to–you grow too big for what home once was. This, more than anything, was the wisdom of the story I knew I would have cast off as a child, but know to my core now that I am grown.
Reading The Book of Three for the first time is like suddenly remembering where you’ve put something you’ve been looking for. I don’t want to be spared from fools and assistant pig keepers, I want more of The Chronicles of Prydain.
50th Anniversary Editions of Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three are available in both paperback (above) and hardcover (below). I’ve had the joy of seeing both in person and they’re lovely! I love how the classic art captures so perfectly the journey, fear, and slight humor embedded in this story.
The lovely folks at Henry Holt and Co. are giving me the opportunity to share this beautiful 50th Anniversary edition of The Book of Three with one of you! Whether you’re new to the series, or have held it close for many years, this is the copy you want to own!
- US/Canada Only
- Winner will have 24 hours to respond to my e-mail before another winner will be chosen.