What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that if you like doing accents and voices, this could be a great read-aloud.
What's the story?
Tiffany Aching lives on a farm, is good at making cheese, and is a girl of uncommon sense. She also dreams of becoming a witch ("She preferred the witches to the smug handsome princes and especially to the stupid smirking princesses, who didn't have the sense of a beetle.").
The Wee Free Men are the Nac Mac Feegle, tiny, redheaded, blue men in kilts, who speak in a thick Scottish brogue Pratchett invented for them, specialize in "stealin' and drinkin' and fightin'", and are perfectly described by one Amazon customer as "foul-mouthed Scottish smurfs."
Tiffany sets out to rescue her baby brother, who has been kidnapped by the Queen of Fairyland, armed only with an iron frying pan and a book of sheep diseases, and accompanied by the brawling, boisterous Nac Mac Feegle. But more than her brother is at stake. This Fairyland is not the nice kind, full of buttercups and Tinkerbelles; it is a place of endless winter where nightmares come true, and where a person can be trapped in a dream forever. And it is encroaching on Discworld, threatening to absorb it.
A witch named Miss Tick offers Tiffany some terrific advice: "If you trust in yourself ... and believe in your dreams ... and follow your star ... you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy."
Is it any good?
Pratchett has an uncanny ability to create an unusual and creative adventure, combine it with layers of symbolism, myth, and cultural detail, and then wrap the whole package in the kind of sparkling wit that rewards intelligence and careful reading. There's a reason he's such a favorite with gifted children and teens; as with his other novels, readers will come away from this feeling that they've had something to chew on, a full and varied banquet, not the usual thin gruel of ordinary stories.
There are many delightful creations here, primarily, of course, the Nac Mac Feegle themselves. Whenever they're on stage, the story fairly sizzles with wit and invention. Equally wonderful, though in a very different way, are the flashbacks to Tiffany's Granny Aching, an old sheepherder whose hardheaded wisdom is the product of a life lived in the chalk hills, and is reflected in her granddaughter. And Tiffany herself, busily clanging monsters with her frying pan while wondering about magic, is a more than winning heroine.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about some of the more difficult parts of the story, as well as its clever humor. Who's your favorite character? Why?