The Brothers Lionheart – Favourite Childhood Book

Lionheart brothers

Sometimes you come across something that is perfect. A moment frozen in time that you can return to time and time again. Books can be good at that. Such a perfect book for me when I was a child, that I still read every several years, is The Brothers Lionheart, by Astrid Lindgren who is best known for writing Pippi Longstocking.

I first read this book in the third grade. A story about life and death, a story about living under occupation, of fighting for freedom where freedom should be assured for you, for life after death, about death after death. It is a story about sacrifice, of growing up, of love, of loving your older brother, of being loved by your older brother. It is a story about being weak. It is a story about mythology.

What is the plot about? Karl adores his big brother Jonatan, and they die, then they get to live in this land beyond death, but treachery and an evil tyrant loom over the peaceful valleys. And things progress from there.

 When I tell you that the book is perfect, and that I really love it, I mean it. Look on its Amazon page, out of 53 reviews, 50 give it a five stars. That’s almost unprecedented. We have two copies of this book in our household, as I was unwilling to give the book to my younger siblings to read. This book, it is just mine.

This book does not cut corners. The protagonist is a ten-year-old boy. I read it as a nine-year-old boy, the first time. And yet, as you can see, those are some really heady issues that the book does not shirk from. You get to face these issues squarely as Karl, the protagonist, does. This book speaks to children without making light their capability to understand these topics. As such, it’s also a book that you’d be perfectly happy to read as an adult, because it’s a book that speaks in the language it does, not trying to speak to children or over their heads.

I don’t have much to say of this book, because I have SO much to say of the book. I could write thousands and thousands of words about the book, but it’d be best if you’d read it. I could write thousands upon thousands of words regarding the book, but I’d rather do it in a discussion with you guys, and not here from my position as a blogger.

I have said often before that one of the main criteria I use to judge books is its emotional impact. I can use that criteria to judge this book. Both using that criteria, and not using that criteria, this book is just about perfect.

This book gets a 10/10 score, and only because I can’t give it 11.

So what are your favourite childhood books, and why? And do you think you’ll still enjoy them today?

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13 comments on “The Brothers Lionheart – Favourite Childhood Book

  1. Jura says:

    This book is all words and no pictures? DX

    • Guy says:

      Do you ask this because you know the book, and you know it’s illustrated by Ilon Wikland, who also did the cover. Or is it because you compare to manga?

      It’s a childrens-book, it has an illustration every several pages, penciled, black and white. It’s a book. The illustrations are nice, and give it a certain whimsy feeling, but they are not the core.

  2. Yi says:

    I haven’t read the book, but from what you hear, it deals with more mature themes than most other children’s books. Death, after life, oppression… etc.

    Sounds really interesting and I wonder what kids’ thoughts are when they face these ideas.

    • Guy says:

      Well, I liked it as a child, and she’s a children’s books’ author, and many of the reviewers on amazon relate loving it as kids, or their kids loving it…

      It seems it’s a book everyone likes. You know what I said regarding the age limit on Princess Mononoke? Many things, it’s not the children that shy away from, it’s the parents who shy away from exposing their kids to these things.

      Track it down, read it. Seriously. This is better than Shigofumi, if much more subtle.

      • Yi says:

        I guess my question is more whether kids simply gloss over the themes, or whether they actually think deeper into that.

        I suppose it’s hard to know, since neither of us are young kids anymore.

    • Guy says:

      Well, the first half of the question you answered yourself, as to the second, it’d be quite an involved answer:

      There are so many themes in these books, that I think even an adult would not get them all through the first read without engaging in some serious mulling of the book, which most of us don’t do, we get what we get, “naturally”.

      Second, children love this book. Even if not emotionally affected in the same way, I’m sure children pick as many themes up as adults do, and perhaps even take an emotional baggage with them.
      That’s another thing to consider, even if you don’t get the emotions you “should” right away, you may think of the book a decade in the future and have a “eureka!” moment, y’know?

  3. lovelyduckie says:

    I may give it a try but since I’m an adult reading it for the first time I feel like it won’t have as much of an impact on me compared to if I had read it as a child. My favorite books growing up were the Nancy Drew and R.L. Stine Fear Street books (because I loved mysteries). But MOST of all I treasured all the Roald Dahl books I read, something about them felt like I was being treated more as an adult than a kid. The most shocking ending for me was The Witches, even as a kid I was blown away with how bittersweet the ending was. It’s a shame the movie doesn’t do that book enough justice. Although I think the movie Matilda does a great job representing the book.

    • Guy says:

      As I tried to intimate with every sentence and every comment, your fear is completely unfounded.
      Did you enjoy Shigofumi? You will enjoy this. Trust me.

      I loved Matilda, very good film :)

  4. Reltair says:

    I’m having a hard time trying to remember specific childhood books that I read. I do remember reading through the entire literature textbook back in elementary school for fun. >_>

    • Guy says:

      I sort of did stuff like that too, and most of the Brothers Grimm collection, and other collections… and sometimes read my way through the “links” in an encyclopedia, which wasn’t as easy as Wikipedia makes it today :D

  5. James says:

    I too read this book at about the same age. I cried long and hard afterward because it forced me to confront the fact that I do not believe in an afterlife.

  6. […] especially as the delivery was quite subdued. A worthwhile experience. I’d suggest The Brothers Lionheart, my favourite children’s book for people who want to see my preferred take on the […]

  7. […] would get more attached. My personal favourite treatment of the themes is Astrid Lindgren’s The Brothers Lionheart, my favourite children book. I do suspect I’d have liked this better had I read it as a book, or had the acting been more […]

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