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Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Guardians of Ga' Hoole by Kathrine Lasky *Contains Spoilers*

At this point, I have read books one through twelve of "The Guardians of Ga ' Hoole" collection. As with many of the books I write about here, I began reading them to my daughters to help them fall asleep at night. Like some before it, and hopefully many to come, I was pleasantly surprised with how wonderfully written and attention holding these stories are. I would read them to my kids to help them sleep, and find myself unable to stop reading until I had finished the book, or even the next book after that.

For those that have seen the movie and have preconceived expectations as to how things will progress, as usual, leave those thoughts behind. Very few things happen the same way, and I quickly came to appreciate the stories more for this reason. You have little surprises all throughout the books, and it gets incredibly easy to become fully absorbed in the stories as you go. This may or may not be a good thing, so consider yourself warned.

The stories seem greatly inspired by the Arthurian legends, as the Owls that are " The Guardians of Ga' Hoole" take an honor bound oath that strongly resembles a Knights code. In the movie, this is first mentioned by Soren and hid brother Kludd while they are branching and playing a game. In the book however, it is the father telling the stories to the children.

The movie, while it has its dark places, is in no way as dark as the books it is based upon. Where in the movie, Soren and Kludd both end up falling from the nest and find themselves at St. Aggies, the book has a far different series of events leading up to this location. While these events do involve Kludd, they are nothing like the movie. In the film adaptation, characters are moved from where and when they arrive in the book, and there is treachery added where there isn't in the book.

The film, after reading the book, is a sad attempt at adaption. Just once, I would like for my children to be able to watch a movie that is based on a book that we have read that actually follows the writing. There is supposed to be a sequel coming. I hope to never see it as they messed up the first one so terribly that the second will not follow well at all. 

Back to the book. I would not really recommend reading this to a very young child that is sensitive to violence or turmoil. The book begins with some family violence, and has some really emotional places. Let me run through a few of them here...

Book 1:
We are introduced to Soren and his family, including his unpleasant brother, Kludd. We hear our first pieces of the Legends of Ga' Hoole. Then Soren, who is not even fully fledged (he has yet to grow any flight feathers) finds himself on the forest floor while his parents are away. He is snatched and taken to a horrible place that uses young owlets as slaves to hatch stolen eggs, and search for metal flecks in yarped pellets.

The owlets are kept under control by a brainwashing technique called moon blinking. Their names are taken and they are given numbers in their place. He makes a friend, Gylfie, and together they find another owl that has managed to avoid the brainwashing. She is a spy from another area of the world that has infiltrated this horrible place to save pre-hatched chicks.

They escape with the help of one of the owls that initially snatched them, and meet an owlet that was orphaned just after hatching. Together they search for Soren and Gylfie's families and learn something even more bone chilling about St. Aggie's. They then go searching for the fabled Ga' Hoole tree. 

Book Two:
There are reunions and the beginnings of a terrible battle. We learn what has come of Soren's brother, Kludd. We learn what is really worse than St. Aggies. Amazing alliances are made. Book three is the start of what is really a war, but this is where the new hope for all of the owl kingdoms is introduced.

I will not go through all of the books with such extreme spoilers, but I do hope that you will read them, and certainly read them to your children. They are very much a new Arthurian Legend for our newest generations. 

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