Andrew Peterson, Author of North! Or Be Eaten

When I was teaching, I had a few students who seemed to be good at everything. They were excellent students, the best soloists in choir, the lead in the Christmas program, the star athlete on their teams (and they played multiple sports), the speech contestant winners, the head cheerleader, the top artist, the best pianist or trumpet player. I’m only exaggerating slightly. Some students seemed loaded with talent—artistic and athletic talent.

Well, I don’t know about the athletic part, but Andrew Peterson, author of the CSFF Blog Tour January feature, North! Or Be Eaten, is one of these “bursting from the seams” talented people.

Let me say up front, I don’t think this is an enviable place to be. Andrew and others of his ilk must often decide how to divide their time between things they love equally, have the same talent for, and have found success doing. Either that, or they renounce sleep. 😆

Some of you know Andrew foremost as a musician. He is a gifted singer and songwriter. I heard him for the first time this Christmas as part of a Family Life Today program. One of the hosts remarked that Andrew is one of his favorite contemporary singers, and I thought, Do they know he also writes fantasy?

I became acquainted with Andrew as a writer when his debut novel, the middle grade fantasy On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness came out. I think I first heard about him from Jonathan Rogers, the outstanding author of the Wilderking Trilogy, who pretty much raved about Andrew’s writing.

Eventually I subscribed to Andrew’s group blog, The Rabbit Room, where he and a group of other artists discuss music and books and movies and the creation of art and theology and the Bible. What an encouraging look at a group of Christians engaged with our culture.

Among Andrew’s other endeavors, he produced a children’s book that captured my attention. From his Web site:

The Ballad of Matthew’s Begats
An Unlikely Royal Family Tree

Who says all those “begats” in the first chapter of Matthew aren’t fun to read?

Kids and parents will have fun reading and singing along with this joyful Andrew Peterson song. The lyrics tell not only of the Biblical list of relatives, but for the first time, kids will learn why the “begats” are extremely important. This story and song demonstrate that Abraham’s long lineage leads directly to the most important Bible character ever, Jesus Christ.

This special book bridges the Old Testament and New Testament, showing Jesus’ birth as part of God’s plan from the very beginning.

(So says the publisher. I’m really excited about this book, not just because I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book, and not just because Cory Godbey’s illustrations are delightful, but because I love being a part of impressing the words of the Lord on children. With a banjo.)

Andrew has taken time to blog about the CSFF Tour where you can leave comments for him if you’d like. Also, if you want to learn his thoughts about writing, check out Chawna Schroeder’s interview with him.

And don’t forget to see what the other CSFF bloggers have to say about North! Or Be Eaten.

Disclaimer as per current FTC rules: Months ago, as part of the Children’s Book Blog Tour, I received a free copy of North! Or Be Eaten for review from the publisher WaterBrook.

CSFF Blog Tour – North! Or Be Eaten, Day 2

Great tour going for Andrew Peterson‘s young adult Christian fantasy North! Or Be Eaten.

As a result of the “Attack on God” threads here, I decided to take a closer look at this novel in that light. Please know that I’ll be giving spoilers, so this serves as your ***SPOILER ALERT***

One of the Igiby children, Tink, is actually the High King of Anniera. As he and his family flee north to escape pursuit from Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs of Dang terrorizing the land of Skree, he begins to change.

First he admits to his brother that he doesn’t want to be High King. Next, when they encounter the Stranders, clans of murderers and thieves living in Glipwood Forest, he shows fascination, even admiration for the head of one clan.

Later a girl who befriends Tink tells him he would make a good Strander. He saves his family by doing a little pickpocketing, only to learn that he’s earned the place as head of the clan.

His reaction is horror at the possibility that he’ll have new responsibilities, but he learns instead that a clan leader “ain’t in charge of anything. He does what he pleases, and the rest of the clan has to do what he pleases too.”

When Tink and his brother are later separated from their family, instead of going to the meeting place as they’d said, he sets off to find the Stranders and take his place as clan leader.

The old lady who tells his brother what happened explained his decision like this: “He made a choice … Because whatever it is inside a man that calls him to the edge of things, calls him to the shadows and away from the light, must have been loud in his ears” (p. 225).

I think this story gives a snapshot of temptation. Ironically Tink’s brother unfairly accused him of selfishness, but in the end he was right. Tink didn’t want responsibility. He wanted a life in which he could do what he wanted, not what was expected of him.

I can’t help but think the same holds true today. How many people reject Christ because they don’t want to do what is expected of them but what they want to do? In the end, it’s a spirit of disobedience, whether it comes from Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens or one of the nice people commenting in the previous threads about how God could never exercise eternal judgment or he would be a tyrant.

It’s a resistance to “ought” in favor of “I.” (Actually it’s a resistance to God and to the perception of “ought” but that doesn’t come out in the story). For Tink, his decision took him to a terrible place.

Ah, but the story didn’t end with him there. North! Or Be Eaten is, after all, a story of redemption.

Don’t forget to check out the blog posts by the other CSFF participants. You’ll find the list, with links to the posts I know are already up, at the end of yesterday’s article.

Published in: on January 28, 2010 at 4:41 pm  Comments (7)  
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Fantasy and Emergent Thought

For those of you looking for a CSFF Blog Tour post about Andrew Peterson‘s book North! Or Be Eaten, second in the Wingfeather Saga, you are actually in the right place. However, you’ll find much more information about the book from my fellow participants listed below or from my earlier review and thoughts about the book posted in conjunction with the Children’s Book Blog Tour.

What I want to do today (and the rest of this week) is to tie in the current discussion here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction about emergent thought with our CSFF selection.

You might be wondering what one has to do with the other. Quite a bit, actually—an entire worldview.

This series of posts began last Friday with an article discussing a provocative piece entitled “Is God ‘A Recovering Practitioner of Violence’?” In the ensuing discussion there and spilling over to Monday, some of those associated with emerging thought made it clear that they do not believe in one or more of the following: original sin, Satan as an actual enemy, hell, God as a righteous judge meting out deserved punishment.

In fact, a number of these visitors ascribe to a panentheistic worldview, or non-duality. In other words, they don’t believe in the basic fantasy motif: good versus evil.

It’s a little hard to imagine speculative fiction without duality. Avatar tried to pull it off, but good fiction is built upon conflict, so evil capitalists and military-ists were cast in the role of antagonist. As author and blogger Mike Duran has pointed out, the panentheistic people in the movie were at one with nature, even revering the animals they had to kill by way of preserving human life, yet they were not at one with the evil humans. No thanking them for giving up their lives. No reverential ceremony acknowledging their contribution to the cycle of life.

North! Or Be Eaten gives an entirely other point of view. There is an enemy bent on destruction—not of the body alone but of the soul. The threat is real, imminent, far-reaching, deadly.

My first question is, which of these two views most accurately squares with Scripture?

From first to last, the Bible is about conflict. Jesus’s parable in Matthew about the landowner who went on a journey gives a thumbnail sketch of the entire Bible.

After a time, the landowner sent reps to collect the proceeds from those he left to work the land. Instead of paying up, they beat and killed these reps. At last the landowner sent his son, but he too was killed and thrown out of the vineyard.

The parable ends with the landowner coming back. Jesus asked this question: “What will he do with those vine-growers?” Jesus didn’t toss out that question for thought. He spelled out the answer: “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper season.”

So does North! Or Be Eaten present the same struggle, good against evil? Let me answer that by quoting these lines of poetry Oskar recites about the protagonists father:

    All children of the Shining Isle, rejoice!
    A hero strides the field, the hill, the sand
    With raven hair and shining blade in hand.
    The wicked quake when lifts the Warden’s voice

    So fleet his mount and fierce his mighty band!
    So fair his word and fine his happy roar
    That breezes o’er the Isle from peak to shore!
    So tender burns his love for king and land!

Good fantasy like North! Or Be Eaten is full of conflict, mirroring the good/evil struggle in the world—the very struggle the Bible addresses, ending in Revelation with a picture of the answer to Jesus’s question: what will He do when He comes back?

– – –

I promised you links to the other participants. Hope you take some time to peruse their reviews and other thoughts about North! Or Be Eaten.

A check mark provides a link to a specific post.

North! Or Be Eaten, a Review – CBBT, Day 3

Andrew Peterson, author of the Wingfeather Saga, is a talented musician as well as an author and illustrator. If I’d interviewed him for the Children’s Book Blog Tour of North! Or Be Eaten, the CBBT August feature, I would have asked if he finds it hard to head in so many varied directions. Of course, they aren’t all varied, since clearly Andrew brings his art to his stories and his writing to his music.

Be that as it may, as suggested in the title of this post, I want to review the second in Andrew’s middle grade fantasy series.

The Story. North! Or Be Eaten picks up the story of the Igby family where On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness left off. With their lives in danger and their town in turmoil, the Igbys are hiding out in Uncle Peet’s Castle. As they make plans and preparations to depart for the Ice Prairies, a place where they believe they will find a resistance force mounting against the Fangs of Dang, they are discovered. And chased.

In the process they find help when they least expected it, betrayal when they had no reason to look for it, and separation that tests them all in ways they could not have anticipated.

Strengths. As you might guess, one of the big positives in this story, from my point of view, is how unpredictable the story becomes. Just about the time I think I know the direction it will take, a new twist develops.

I also really connected with the characters, especially Janner. He understands his role now, and he takes decisive, though not always wise, action. I want to see him succeed. I worry for him when I think he’s making a wrong move. I want to smack him when I think he’s being a show-off. But throughout, I’m in his corner.

The setting continues to be a huge draw for fantasy fans. The world Andrew Peterson has developed is dense. It has a history and tradition, politics and poets. There are notable landmarks that influence and affect the story. The world becomes nearly as important as the characters.

Ultimately, I think Andrew hit a home run in presenting Christian themes. I doubt very much if anyone not looking for them will say, Oh, that book has Christian themes. Rather than noticing, readers, I believe, will be impacted by the truths inherent in the story. Andrew wove those truths with a masterful hand. They are at the core of What Happens, yet they do not call attention to themselves.

(I’m trying to be circumspect so as not to give spoilers. This is one of those books that, first time through, will be more fun if you don’t know what’s coming next.)

Weaknesses. While the story started with lots of action, I felt some seemed a little unnecessary. The Igbys spend time preparing for their trip north, only to leave much of their supplies behind, for example. The Gargan Rockroach seemed like a hideous monster thrown in for the sake of having a hideous monster.

Of course, the target audience readers will undoubtedly find such to add to the excitement, but since everything after the bridge seems to fit so tightly together, these earlier chapters feel less significant.

One more. There were some motivation and plausibility problems in those early chapters, too, I thought. For example, Oskar’s ability to find the family to warn them seemed a little unbelievable, given his wounded condition.

Recommendation. When I like a book as much as I do North! Or Be Eaten, it would be easy to leave out weaknesses, but my guess is, fewer people would believe the positives I have to say. I can only hope none of the weaknesses I pointed out would dissuade anyone from reading this series. It would be a shame because I think this is one of those keepers, the kind you buy in box sets some day and reread every few years. Wonderful books. Must read if you love literature.

For those interested in a “second opinion,” see what others on the tour are saying:
The 160 Acre Woods, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Book Buzz,, My Own Little Corner of the World, My utopia, Novel Teen, Olive Tree, Reading is My Superpower, Through a Child’s Eyes

Read the First One – CBBT, North! Or Be Eaten, Day 2

On this Fantasy Friday, it’s a pleasure to continue discussing Andrew Peterson‘s North! Or Be Eaten, second in the Wingfeather Saga.

Second! Ah, apparently this has rub-producing potential for those who have not read the initial book in the series, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

So the easy answer, in my opinion, is to read the first one, first. Here are some fundamental reasons:

  • In book one readers become acquainted with, and eventually attached to, the main characters.
  • The first book introduces the fantasy world, with its history and current political situation, its new and different celebrations, and its creatures.
  • The first book establishes the lines: who is good, who is a betrayer, who do you cheer for, who do you fear.
  • On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness begins building the parameters of the magical. What can the water from the First Well do? Who has power to transform for evil?
  • The first in the series introduces, or at least hints at, the ultimate mission the main characters must undertake.
  • The first book sets the tone: light and fun, intermingled with danger and darkness.
  • Book one of the Wingfeather Saga is an entertaining story, but is really only part 1 of the greater … uh, saga. 😉
  • I’m stressing book one so much because some of the reviews of those participating in the Children’s Book Blog Tour indicated North! Or Be Eaten may have been more enjoyable if the reader came in knowing what all took place in book one. How horrible, I thought, if a reader was put off of this outstanding series simply because they had not read the initial offering.

    So don’t do it!

    Here’s what you’d miss: humor, clever art, entertainment, thought-provoking adventure, artful prose.

    The humor is woven throughout the story. I remember having occasion to smile even during the build up to the climax.

    Drawings. I’ll let this one speak for the others:

    Peets Castle by Andrew Peterson

    Peet's Castle by Andrew Peterson

    Entertainment. This story has something for everyone: adventure, mystery, suspense, romance (?), all a part of an unpredictable story with twists and surprises all the way to the end.

    Thought-provoking. I found myself thinking of the story in the middle of the night and contemplating its truths at odd moments through the day. Nothing is heavy handed, but there is Much to think about.

    Artful prose. Again, I’ll let the work speak for itself. Here’s one passage toward the end:

    Though the sky was unbearably blue and free of a single wisp of cloud, the peak of the Witch’s Nose [a mountain so named because of its appearance in the distance] pinned a swath of ghostly mist to the heavens.

    I’ll give a full review tomorrow. To see what others are saying about the book, check out these blogs:

    The 160 Acre Woods, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Book Buzz,, My Own Little Corner of the World, My utopia, Novel Teen, Olive Tree, Reading is My Superpower, Through a Child’s Eyes

    And for those of you looking for the CSFF Blog Tour August poll for Top Tour Blogger, I’ll post that next week.

    A Second Tour – North! Or Be Eaten

    OK, if the title itself doesn’t grab you, then I think you need a dose of wanderlust injected into your system. Either that, or a closer look at the cover of Andrew Peterson‘s middle grade novel (which reads the way the Harry Potter books do—something there for all ages and stages) North! Or Be Eaten. This month’s Children’s Book Blog Tour feature, the second in the Wingfeather Saga, is a fantasy you won’t want to miss, whether or not imaginative stories are the kind you most prefer.

    Generally, when it comes to fantasy, I cringe when I hear or read an endorsement for a new book or series that makes such claims as “the next C. S. Lewis.” I mean, if there was a next C. S. Lewis, then we’d have a next Narnia, and to date I’ve not seen another world painted with such richness and enticement.

    Because of that strong opinion, I don’t think I’ve ever been tempted to do that kind of hyperbolic comparison in any of my endorsements or reviews. Until now.

    And even now, I will resist. Andrew Peterson is not the next C. S. Lewis. He is the very current Andrew Peterson, with the definite potential to become a classic author with a unique series that children and adults will read over and over again.

    That’s a bold statement, so it might be helpful to think about what makes a classic a classic.

    First, the story needs to be timeless. Not that the setting is timeless. Clearly, the Narnia books are set in England, either during or prior to World War II. But the story needs to work long after the period of time for which it was written.

    In addition, a classic needs to be universal; that is, it needs to address needs, longings, relationships that do not change from one generation to another or from one place or people to another.

    Thirdly, a classic must be much loved. This is the kind of book a person wants to reread, and then to read aloud to his or her children. These are the books aunts and grandparents give for Christmas.

    The Wingfeather Saga, which started with On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness has these elements, though I suppose the “much loved” aspect has to become wide-spread. I hope it does, because these books are worthy of much attention.

    More tomorrow, and I love this book so much, I’m even planning to post on Saturday. Meanwhile, as Andrew said in the title of one of his blog posts, Purchase! Or Be Eaten. 😀

    I haven’t read what the other participants on this tour are saying, but I’m eager to go to their blogs and see if they liked the book as much as I did.

    I encourage you to stop by their sites as well. Leave a comment, even, then next week vote in the best blogger poll:

    The 160 Acre Woods, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Book Buzz,, My Own Little Corner of the World, My utopia, Novel Teen, Olive Tree, Reading is My Superpower, Through a Child’s Eyes

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