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 isn't a book about Disney fairies -- the Various are in every way, except stature, primitive and at times savagely violent adults. Several are killed violently, and they pose a serious threat to the lives of the human child protagonists.
What's the story?
Midge is less than thrilled to be sent to stay with her eccentric uncle on his rundown farm while her mother is on tour with her orchestra. But once there she finds she loves the place, and her affable uncle.
While exploring one of the outbuildings, she finds a strange injured creature -- Pegs, a small horse with wings who can communicate telepathically. She nurses it back to health, and learns that it lives in the dense woods that her uncle plans to sell to a developer. When Pegs learns of these plans, he insists that Midge accompany him back to the woods to tell this news to the beings who live hidden there -- the Various. But now that Midge knows of the Various, some of the them think that she should not be allowed to leave alive.
Is it any good?
This literary fantasy, the first of a planned trilogy, harkens back to the style of the great fantasy writers of the past but updates it for a new generation. Steve Augarde takes his time getting to the crux of the story and doesn't talk down to his audience -- he writes in dense and lyrical prose best suited to experienced readers and listeners. But there's an edge here, a visceral violence that will keep young readers in high suspense, as he makes it seem perfectly possible that his characters can be injured and even killed. Readers will care about that because Augarde's characters are especially delightful.
Augarde is especially good at vivid details, and the world of the Various is made compelling and real. Experienced readers will love this, be eager for the sequel, and may just go exploring in any nearby woods to see if there are any Various to be found.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the caste system of the Various. Why do so many cultures seem stratified? Is equality really possible? Also, why are there so many variations of Elementals in so many cultures around the world -- fairies, elves, dwarves, sprites, pixies, gnomes, goblins, brownies, leprechauns, etc.? How do the Various compare?