Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Bartimaeus Trilogy - Jonathan Stroud

Audio books have been one of the greatest additions to classroom and public library stacks - in the years that I spent in the classroom, more than a few audio books were instrumental in lighting a reading fire under some of the most reluctant readers (nine times out of ten, young boys) that came my way. Consequently, I have a soft spot in my heart for any audio book that holds my attention, has a fast plot, an excellent narrator/reader, and is unabridged.

This series, that I stumbled upon in our little public library, caught my attention from the first words uttered by Simon Jones. Mr. Jones is an established Broadway actor with the deepest and most sonorous voice - his verbal abilities and vocal characterizations of the numerous characters in Jonathan Stroud's trilogy make for a wild romp for any young adult reader/listener who has a hankering for a good fantasy tale.

The trilogy centers on the relationship struck up by a young magician-in-training named Nathaniel. Nathaniel summons a jinni named Bartimaeus early on in Book 1 of the series and their love/hate relationship forms the basis for an involved tale of political intrigue within the British government, strained relations and rebellion between the common people and the magician hierarchy that rules the United Kingdom, and the mystery of the void in which jinni, imps, fairies, monsters, and demons reside in the ether of the universe. It's a fantastic and fun story that is full of magic, wild escapes, and mad adventures.

Suitable for kids eight and above, there is the occasional 'naughty' word - nothing horrific, but vernacular, just the same, a touch of innocent romance, the usual rough 'potty' humor that tickles the pre-pubescent, and a lot of sarcasm and wit. Some parents may think it coarse, but I say it's an innocent and fun crowd-pleaser.

Mr. Stroud writes like a screenplay writer in that his scenes are short vignettes that are descriptive and easily envisioned - an important skill when writing for young readers. His command of dialogue is good, although I think reading the dialogue for a struggling reader would be too much, as some of the wit and sarcasm might be lost on one working to carry the thread of the sentence structure and length of dialogue passages. He has been clever in structuring the series around three characters, a young girl named Kitty, one of the common folk who is in rebellion against the magician leadership, as well as Nathaniel and Bartimaeus. Girls as well as boys will enjoy the series and have a character to identify with. Mr. Stroud also does a good job of developing his characters over the course of the series ... one is not disappointed with the way things end, although it may not be to the liking of all readers.

A worthy audio book series ... enough said!

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