4 out of 4 stars
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Anyone who has ever slept has had nightmares, many of them as children, and in his book, Terrence and the Magical Sword of Courage, C.R. Langille tells us just where these bad dreams come from. Terrence is a brown teddy bear who is tasked with protecting his child, Liam, from nightmares. In this story, we find out that nightmares come from wicked goblins who carry bags of nightmare dust that are to be sprinkled on children as they lie sleeping. As Liam's protector, it's up to Terrence to protect the child from these creatures and the nightmares they induce. There's one problem, though: Terrence is afraid of pretty much everything, and he even flunked out of Teddy Bear Academy!
During his attempts to protect Liam, Terrence hears of the Magical Sword of Courage which is supposed to provide its bearer with enough courage to face anything. Can Terrence find the sword? Will it really give him courage? Will he succeed in keeping Liam safe? All these questions and more are answered in this tale.
I really really liked this book. Terrence is an adorable teddy bear, and I wanted to reach out and hold him many times. His sidekick, a hobgoblin named Milton, is a hoot, and the two of them make a great team as they quest for the sword. The bad guys, including the big baddie, the Boogeyman, are sufficiently scary and make for great antagonists. Also along for part of the ride are some helpful ravens and the turkeys upon which the goblins ride. Since the story takes place at night, Liam spends the better part of the tale asleep and is therefore not an integral part of the story, but it's still clear how much Terrence loves him and how close the two are.
While the story begins in Liam's bedroom, much of the action takes place in two separate worlds, UnderBed and ClosetVille. First off, I want to say that I absolutely loved the naming of these places, and I think children will too. The author also did a great job describing both worlds, and I could see them in my mind's eye. My only concern is that the exceptionally young may be frightened at the idea of these being real worlds inhabited by monsters, as many children are already afraid of what may be lurking under their beds or in their closets during the night.
In addition to great descriptions throughout the tale, each chapter begins with a relevant picture. I think the pictures are tastefully drawn and represent each chapter well. They were also wonderful aides in helping me further visualize the scenery. I will note, however, that the pictures are in grayscale, and I think color would have really made them stand out, but that's just my subjective opinion. It's also possible that they're grayscale only in digital editions and are in color in the print version.
The underlying lesson in this story is about courage, and I believe the point is delivered well without coming across too strongly. I also think the book is a good opportunity for parents to speak with their children about things like courage, things that go “bump” in the night, friendship, and doing the right thing.
Amazon has a suggested age range of 5-12 years old for this book, but I recommend it for the higher end of that range, as many of the words are a little complex for the really young, and even older children may have to ask for help with words such as “epitome”, “roughhewn”, and “ambient”. The author does explain in the Introduction that he uses such vocabulary on purpose with the goal of children increasing their vocabulary in mind. I also recommend it for children closer to the age of 12 because it's over 100 pages long and may be a bit much for the young, even if read during several sessions. Lastly, I think it's more appropriate for the older crowd because even though it never gets real scary, it still may be a bit much for the really young and vulnerable who are more likely to still be afraid of night monsters.
I found a handful of grammatical errors that I may normally overlook, but since this is a book for children, I think it's even more important to be error-free as much as possible, as we don't want younger people to inadvertently pick up bad writing habits.
All told, I think Terrence and the Magical Sword of Courage is a wonderful book, and I give it a strong 4 out of 4 stars. This is the first in a series of books, and I cannot wait to read the others when they're released. In my mind, one is never too old to learn life lessons.
Terrence and the Magical Sword of Courage
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