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?