A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this adventure/fantasy from the author of the Ranger's Apprentice series is fairly low on violence. Pirates kill sailors and watchmen in two brief scenes and there's one significant fist fight among teen boys, but otherwise the focus is on teens coming together as a team. The main character, Hal, becomes a leader, and the boys in his underdog "brotherband" employ all their skills to compete against other, stronger brotherbands. There's lots of talk about Hal's mentor Thorn and his years of drinking, but he quits in order to be a positive figure in Hal's life.
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What's the story?
Boys turning 16 in the Skandian town of Hallasholm are excited about one thing: brotherband training, where they learn \"tactics, weapon skills, seamanship, ship handling and navigation,\" while competing in teams. But in the team selection process Hal, his friend Stig, and other less popular or less muscular boys are left with no team and told that they are stuck with each other. Not a good start, but they're determined to make it work. Hal becomes leader, and their first task begins: building their own shelter. Thanks to Hal's shipbuilding apprenticeship they earn the most points. But other tasks won't be as easy for the group, short two members and lots of muscle. Meanwhile, disguised pirates come to town looking for a way to steal Hallasholm's most precious treasure. The town is on to them, but is it enough to stop them?
Is it any good?
If you like underdog stories and camp, you'll love THE OUTCASTS. If you like boats, it's an added bonus. The author of the Ranger's Apprentice series gets readers rooting for Hal and his friends -- even those crazy bickering twins -- as they take on one challenge after another. At first it's kind of surprising that almost the whole book focuses on the brotherband training, but it sets up the series well and hints at the excitement to come. It also gives readers time to get to know Hal and see him become a real leader and an innovative thinker. He's a character worth following on many adventures.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why it's so fun to root for the underdog. What are your favorite underdog stories?
Is it surprising that Hal's team does as well as it does in the brotherband competition? How did the boys use their strengths? What were they?
Do you agree with the way Thorn trains Hal to handle Tursgud, his bully nemesis? Is it only natural for them to work things out with punches if they're training to be warriors? Or was there another way?
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