Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Imaginative retelling of a religious classic


Title: The Bark of the Bog Owl
Author: Jonathan Rogers
Publisher: Broadman & Holman
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Action, Adventure, Fantasy
ISBN: 080543131-4

Take places like Tambluff Castle, Feechiefen Swamp, Bonifay Plain and Greasy Cave. Now mix them with characters like King Darrow, Bayard the Truth Speaker, Dobro, Aidan Errolson. a contingent of scheming Pyrthens and you have The Bark of the Bog Owl, the first book of Jonathan RogersWilderking Trilogy.

In this series Rogers retells the story of David from the Old Testament. However, with the exception of the main plot line there is little else predictable about the story. The reworked characters have been transplanted to a medieval fantasy land which includes symbolic alligators, a tribe of outcast Feechiefolk and a seer who goes around with a pair of goats.

The book is a lively read. Twelve-year-old Aidan, Dobro, the Feechiefolk, his brothers and the Pyrthens mix it up in play, celebration, arguments, hand-to-hand fights and even a genuine battle. The action and adventure are also delivered with generous doses of humor in silly songs, rhymes and Mr. Rogers’ droll way with words.

Themes that come out in this tale are love of God and country, bravery, honor and on Aidan’s part, a thirst for action and adventure.

Though we get to know Aidan best, there are other interesting characters as well - the mysterious Dobro, Aidan’s somewhat jealous and condescending brothers and my favorite, Bayard the Truth Speaker.

It is Bayard’s wisdom, delivered in the mysterious voice of an authentic but weird prophet that had me, adult that I am, reaching for my highlighter. “Live the life that unfolds before you,” he tells Aiden on their first meeting. Later he reassures him, “Do not ask, ‘Am I being a fool?’ Ask, ‘Am I being the right sort of fool?’” It is this sage foundation that expands the story from being just an entertaining tale and gives it value beyond the hours of entertainment reading it will provide.

Kids in Grades 3-6 will enjoy this series. If I were the parent though, I wouldn’t give it to one of them to read. Rather I’d read it aloud to them myself and join in the fun.

The book is available from Amazon.com.


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