Lately, I have often heard that we are not the ones to choose our books. They choose us. It’s not a new idea at all, but that doesn’t make it any less true. In the quantum field of our energy dwells everything we attract, everything we need, everything we deserve. But do we recognize the value of what is given to us, or not? (To be honest, I think we mostly don’t recognize it. We shrug our shoulders, all bones, blood, flesh and burdens, and we say: “It’s just a coincidence, I have something more urgent to do now than waste my time on this.”)
A year and a half ago, a young lady from a PR agency called me to offer me as a gift a children’s book, for me and my little girl, Iza, to read at bedtime. The young lady already knew of my online project in which, every week, on my blog, I used to share thoughts on Harry Potter books, which I read, and read, and read again with Iza. She told me how much she liked the parallel I had made between the universe of wizarding students at Hogwarts and our evolution towards spirituality. I understood right away that she would have liked me to write about the book she recommended, but I didn’t promise her anything. I even squinted a little bit and confessed that I was a bit busy and, additionally, I don’t usually go for children’s books, but the masterpieces of the genre, written by J.K. Rowling, oh, those are the type that would really deserve my noble attention. For anything else… I don’t know if I would bother.
However, the PR girl insisted, very politely. I remember perfectly the day she waited for me on the subway station platform, in Piata Romana, downtown Bucharest, and gave me that book: The Legend of Podkin One-Ear, an adventure novel by a young English writer named Kieran Larwood. I read that day some international chronicles about the novel – all of them too appreciative, I thought – yet, not that I took them seriously. So I put the new book on a shelf and I ignored it for more than half a year. After finishing, for the second time in a row, the full marathon of J.K. Rowling’s books, which we read translated into Romanian, Iza and I started searching for other books that would fit usefully and pleasantly the sacred and fluffy ritual of our evening reading time.
We started by mumbling for a while the too absurd absurdities from Roald Dahl’s Charlie books (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Glass Elevator). Then, Astrid Lindgren’s books about Pippi Longstocking took us by surprise – not in the best sense of the term – and although we read to the end, we promised never to get any closer to them again. That’s how we’ve learned not to waste our time and read only two or three pages of other books and after that to throw them away as fast as we could if not pleasant.
Only out of desperation did we end up trying The Legend of Podkin One-Ear, without much enthusiasm though. Iza was completely disappointed by the previous failed experiments and made me promise that if we didn’t really like the first five pages, we wouldn’t continue. And I started reading aloud… By the time we reached the third page, Iza was already clinging to my shoulder, reading at the same time with me, then took the book from my hand and read aloud all by herself the whole chapter. And then I read about five more chapters in a row, because we both understood that we came across a wonderful story that would keep us breathless and our hearts full of the joy of having the reason to go to bed earlier every evening, although, I admit, we ended up falling asleep later.
The Legend of Podkin One-Ear is part of a series of six books that make up the Saga of the Five Realms. What a joy, we thought, six books for us to read, six more opportunities for adventure! Another and another and another slice of happiness baked from the ingredients of skillfully chosen and carefully woven words into the threads of a story so well told. We could hardly wait to find out what happened next. It is a story where the characters are so plausibly built, so alive, wonderful, touching, charming that they would follow you out of the book, into your own life with their utterances, audacity, fears, or sweetness. Podkin is such a loveable character! You will also adore his little brother, Pook, as if he were your own child, asking in a delicate voice for some soup… And you will definitely admire Paz, their older sister, taking her as a model of courage and dignity.
I rushed to order the next volume, The Gift of Dark Hollow, also published by Paralela 45 Romanian Publishing House, before we even finished the first book of the series. Then, because none of the other books of the series were already translated into Romanian, we started ordering the books in English, even though we were still in Bucharest. Reading the next volume, The Beasts of Grimheart, we discovered that the reading in the original version is even more charming, the humor more vivid and fresher, the feelings more intense… Also, the mere exercise of reading in English, in loud voice, boosted our self-confidence. Both Iza and I had read books or little books in English, but only silently, without clearly voicing the words. This training proved to be more useful than we have ever imagined, because the muscles of your face can resist you, at first, when you speak in another language; the vocal cords can prove stubborn to the sounds you have not practiced in your native idiom. The difficulty dissipates only when you commit to rehearsing pronunciation, understanding and deeply enjoying the reading.
In October, when we moved to England, the first book we ordered – in fact, the only one, as we barely accommodated to a new life abroad and focused, financially, more on adjusting and less on buying gifts – was the fourth volume of the series: Uki and the Outcasts. An investment in our joy, pleasure for reading, and endless love! Uki and the Outcasts is a book that turns all the situations upside down, brings other characters into the spotlight – Uki, Kree, and Jori- without abandoning the old ones. It is a book where the courage and adventures of characters open surprising perspectives, and the humor and writing skills of the writer reach higher levels of refinement.
We read Uki and the Outcasts twice, in order not to break the spell by staying away from the characters until the fifth volume of the series appears. This fifth one, Uki and the Swamp Spirit, was announced to be launched only on January 7th, in the UK, and only for those who pre-ordered it. That’s exactly what we did, you got it. We placed the order and expected, as advertised, to receive it the following week. Yet how lucky we were! Maybe the whole universe conspired or maybe the Goddesses-of-all-good-books-and-of-all-good-mothers-who-read-with-their-children intervened so that Uki and The Swamp Spirit arrived to us, in the mailbox of our house in London, on January 6th, ONE DAY BEFORE THE OFFICIAL INTERNATIONAL LAUNCH! How was this possible?! You know what, it doesn’t even matter. It just happened and we were thrilled. Sometimes, the joys come when you don’t expect them, and the miracles happen when you embrace the light in your soul and allow the universe to take responsibility and provide you with the solution.
We are grateful for crossing paths with the incredibly beautiful books of Kieran Larwood. We are so happy to have met his refined and lively style, his noble and generous humor, his humanistic, sensible, and spiritual ways of distributing roles and features among his characters. He debunks traditional roles of boys and girls, of poor and rich, of representatives of different races and species, of parents and children, and reconfigures them. They appeal to the reader because this is what the new reader wants and needs to read. The books take the first step, then the reader follows. Like all great loves, they come to us when we need them most. They seek us, soothe us, rejoice us, give us what we lack, gather us in our essence of light, proving indisputably that we are energy, we are pieces of divinity, we are entitled to happiness, to adventure, to freedom, to truth, to beauty.
So, let’s read and let’s love! You can either look for the books of the Five Realms or allow for the miracles to unfold, and if it’s meant to be, sooner or later these wonderful books will come to you on their own. I have no doubt that their purpose is to reach their readers – as it happened in my case, irrespective of where they might live on earth! Because the five realms of Kieran Larwood’s stories are an on-going reality of universal reigns of endless love and sheer beauty.
P.S. I don’t have enough words to tell you how brilliant Uki and The Swamp Spirit is! It makes us laugh, it makes us cry, it makes us tremble with emotion and repeat from time to time: Oh, this is the greatest children’s book ever!