Viking adventure with good discussion points
I read this book when it was first published and loved it! Now my son is almost 6 and has been begging for me to start Harry Potter, but I'm not quite ready to begin that series with him (he'll want all of them, and he's definitely not ready for the later books). So, as a bridge, I picked this book up and started reading it to him about a week ago. It was a slow start, one chapter a night, interspersed with explanations about the setting and the time period. Now that the true adventure has started, he's been requesting 2 or more chapters each night, and sometimes extra chapters in the middle of the day.
So, my kid is 5 going on 6, but I would *not* read this to just any 6 year old. It's definitely not a book to read to younger kids if you're not prepared to talk about the realities of the time period (Viking raids, pagans and the shift to Christianity, Norse religion, slavery, magic, and the general brutalities of medieval life). It's a good story to challenge kids' concepts of good and evil - the main character, Jack, is taken by Vikings and at first is horrified by their culture, but is later able to see it from their point of view. Even though Jack doesn't always agree or understand why the Vikings behave the way they do, he is able to be compassionate about some aspects of their culture. This is a message I definitley want my kid to pick up on. Not all of the characters make good role models (some of them are Berserkers, after all), but many of the characters challenge pre-formed expectations and some of them adapt and grow in positive ways. My son is already pretending to be Jack finding the Life Force, the same way he pretends to be a Jedi using The Force whenever he listens to my old Star Wars audiobooks.
With regards to the violence present in the story, my son is actually somewhat sensitive and doesn't like surprises (he has Asperger's), and while he likes all the information he's getting from the story (and the extra talks about vocabulary or story elements), he stops me periodically to remind me to read ahead to let him know if someone is going to die (and people do die in this book). Because I've read it before, I pause before any particularly gruesome or intense parts to prep him and give him the choice to skip that part, then we always discuss the why of the storyline after those parts. He's very excited for me to get the audiobook after we finish reading the book together! And I'm excited because I think this will jumpstart his interest in learning more mythology and tip him towards choosing more fairy tale and fantasy books :)
This title contains:
Positive role models