The best children’s books operate on multiple levels. A good children’s book has to be a great adventure – pulling the reader into a world of imagination and terrible dangers, wonderful visions, and lots of choices – choices that lead to consequential outcomes, and further adventures. The best tales also weave in themes that are relevant for adult readers as well.
The Adventures of Kendra Kandlestar written and illustrated by Lee Edward Födi concern a community of Eens – small beings with a rich culture who live unseen by the world at large. Kendra is a young girl who embarks on a mission to find the stolen Box of Whispers. The box holds the secrets of the entire community. The first book launches an epic adventure that spans five books. A dragon, a duplicitous dwarf, spells and potions, lots of extraordinary creatures that are often not what they seem… the adventures are big but the internal journeys of the characters are always center stage. Themes about the two-edged nature of secrecy, forgiveness, sacrifice, and the value of family and friends, and the precarious nature of what constitutes a safe community and our responsibility to look out for the weak. They are excellent tales and perfect for middle grades or adults who follow children’s literature.
When I was young, I was particularly fond of stories of little creatures who set out on adventures in a big world. I suppose we all feel like that at times. The world is a big place and it is easy to feel powerless at times. In Letters to Children, C.S. Lewis mentions that he was criticized at times for including scary things like dragons and witches in his books, and he responded in essence that it is better for children to be exposed to concepts of danger and bravery in a metaphorical context, before they are exposed to the actual truly terrifying dangers that exist in the world… sort of a trial run to explore the issues in a theoretical way. And here in these books, readers can see choices and their consequences, danger and bravery, and see how big a difference a small person can make in a big world.
Anyway, they are delightful books and well worth checking out if you have a middle schooler who likes fantasy adventures. It screams out to be a Jim Henson production in my opinion. Ideally a limited Netflix or Amazon series. Imagination and thoughtful humor on every page.