What books did you love as a child?
Submitted by hearts.
The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper has been a favorite since the fourth grade. The books relate the story of the eternal battle between the Light and the Dark. These books should be right up there with The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Harry Potter, but they are woefully underrated and underappreciated.
The sequence is imbued with Celtic, Welsh, and English folklore, as it is set in Cornwall and Wales and has requisite appearances by Herne the Hunter and the Pendragon. There are five books in the sequence.
Over Sea, Under Stone introduces the three Drew children – Simon, Jane, and Barney – as they holiday in Cornwall with their great-uncle Merriman Lyon. They find a map in the attic, which they take as a sign to pursue adventure. The children don’t realize that by finding the map, they have become part of a very real quest, and their great-uncle Merry is revealed to be someone of great importance. There are caves and beaches and sinister enemies and friends later revealed to be enemies and Arthurian legends and many other things that will stimulate the reader’s imagination. Great book, although it’s not quite as complex as the other books in the series.
The Dark is Rising is the story of Will Stanton. On his eleventh birthday, it is revealed to him that he is the last of the Old Ones, warriors of the Light and enemies of the Dark. Like the Drew children, he must take part in a quest for the Things of Power (in Will’s case, the Six Signs; in the Drew children’s case, the Grail) to prepare for the final battle with the Dark. Will is helped in his quest by Merry Lyon, who is the first of the Old Ones.
Greenwitch reintroduces the Drew children, who have returned to Cornwall after the Grail they had recovered in Over Sea, Under Stone was stolen from the British Museum. Merry and Will join them in their quest. The Drews are initially hostile to Will, who is close to their age but sometimes seems to usurp authority and is given special attention by great-uncle Merry. This book is essentially Jane Drew’s tale, who, like the Greenwitch, is the only girl in the boys’ club and who feels that she is always somewhat overshadowed and underappreciated. Through Jane’s actions, the Greenwitch surrenders the Thing of Power in her possession – in this case, a scroll that will translate the symbols on the Grail. This is the weakest book in the series, but still worth a read.
The Grey King is the story of Bran Davies, an albino boy who lives in Wales with his stepfather. After a bout with hepatitis, Will has forgotten his role as the last of the Old Ones; his memory is reawakened after he goes to Wales to recuperate. This time, Will is the guide as he helps Bran Davies realize his destiny as the Pendragon.
Silver on the Tree brings together all the characters introduced in the previous four books. This really is a fitting end to the sequence, although by no means does it leave all questions answered. It is commendable of Susan Cooper that the series does not end tritely, with everyone living happily ever after.
I first read these books in the fourth grade; my copies are now well-worn and well-loved, but I still read the sequence every year. The Dark is Rising Sequence is superior to The Lord of the Rings in that the reader is not overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of its self-contained mythos, and it’s better than The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter because the writing is not quite as child-like; I almost don’t want to label The Dark is Rising Sequence as fantasy/young-adult fiction, just because it seems to diminish the quality of the plot and the writing. The Dark is Rising should be spoken of with as much reverence as those other anthologies. Incidentally, Liz, if you’re reading this, you would probably like these books and should immediately check them out if you haven’t read them. ^_^