Lloyd Alexander,
The Book of Three
(Henry Holt & Co., 1964;
reprinted 2006)

Thirty years before Harry Potter first charmed the world's children, Lloyd Alexander delved into Welsh myths and wrote a story about a boy, unaware of his heritage, who goes on a quest against evil. He's joined by a spunky heroine with emerging magical powers and a couple of quirky sidekicks. The characters, likable despite an array of foibles, bicker, bargain and fight their way across the legendary land of Prydain.

The Book of Three, the first in a five-book series, introduces Taran. The young assistant pig-keeper who dreams of glory is thrust into adventures as he pursues Hen Wen, the escaping oracular pig, into the forest. There he stumbles into the path of the dangerous Horned King, joins forces with his rescuer, kind Prince Gwydion, and meets an assortment of characters and creatures en route to the ultimate battle between good and evil.

Some of the more colorful companions who make the journey include Eilonwy of the red-gold hair, Fflewddur Fflam the harp-string snapping bard, Gurgi the furry half-beast who continually asks for "crunchings and munchings," and Doli, a rather resourceful dwarf in all areas except achieving invisibility.

The Book of Three is fast-paced, broken into easy-to-read chapters full of castles, secret passageways and enchanted swords. The 1999 edition includes a handy pronunciation guide in the back for those read-aloud moments.

For newfound fantasy fans of the Harry Potter series, the five books of The Chronicles of Prydain may be a delightful distraction until the next Hogwarts installment arrives in book stores.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.