As many of you know, I’m a substitute teacher and tutor who is hoping to eventually teach full-time at the elementary level. I used to think that high school might be more of a fit for me, due to being able to discuss and recommend literature. However, it’s recently dawned on me that children and young adults have books that are just as fun and delightful to read and discuss. So while I begin making my list of books that I’d like to have for my future classroom, I’m excited about exploring books and authors I haven’t yet “met” and adding them to my list.
When the author of Countryside: The Book of the Wise asked me if he could send me a book to review, I agreed because I felt that I’d like to know of current authors to recommend to students (sadly, my only recommendations are mostly by dead authors!). I received this in November, but due to finishing up my semester and then working until December 23, I didn’t get a chance to begin this until recently. I haven’t read a juvenile book in a while, so was a bit worried about whether this would keep my interest. I shouldn’t have worried though…
Countryside is an imaginative story combining elements of the past and present as we follow the adventures of a young boy and his family. Luke is the oldest of five children and lives a normal life in a normal town – until one day he has a strange encounter, his dad leaves for military deployment, and Luke and his family move to the magical town of Countryside to be with his grandparents. While there Luke experiences many typical boyhood happenings: he makes friends, meets bullies, goes to school (albeit to learn things like controlling light), and plays football. But strange things keep happening and Luke becomes increasingly puzzled as dark people and events begin to cast a shadow over his life – and somehow it all involves him and a long-lost book.
As a reader, I found this story with its incorporation of past-and-present elements (as an example, the narrative is set in modern times but people use carriages to get around) and various characters and their stories coming together interesting. The blend of a Texas town and a magical world was also intriguing – I was able to visualize the story’s setting, which includes large landscapes and pecan trees while employing my imagination for the magical tunnels that the story’s character use for travel.
As an educator, I found the reinforcement of good manners and gentle respect for authority figures in the central character very refreshing. The author also creates a magical world without making it too scary, and he never burdens his young readers with life issues that they may not be ready to tackle, as other juvenile books often will do. This is a story that any parent and educator can safely hand a child.
Finally, I really appreciated the way that the author created a story that portrays a child who must navigate his new world with an absent parent. The author taps into the feelings of the child who watches his father leave and then must continue to grow up and change without his father’s immediate guidance. I think this would be a great book for any child who has a parent who travels often for business, is deployed, or is often absent for any length of time.
I recommend this book to fifth and sixth graders who would enjoy an action-packed story that combines adventure, fantasy, and reality.
Until next time,
Special thanks to author J.T. Cope IV who sent me a copy to review. I did not receive any compensation for this review, and my opinions are my own.