The Chronicles of Prydain
C. S. Lewis once said that if a children’s book isn’t worth reading for adults, then it isn’t worth reading for children either, and his comment only makes sense. Why force children to read something that isn’t worthwhile for humans in general? Lloyd Alexander’s books are an excellent example of literature written for children yet enjoyable and worth reading for adults as well, and the Prydain Chronicles are the best of his many recommendable books.
This series of five books (The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, The High King) tells the story of Taran, official Assistant Pig-keeper and a boy of (so he thinks) no consequence, who experiences many adventures on his path to manhood. Along with a group of eccentric and well-drawn characters, including a rebellious princess and a truth-stretching bard with spiky yellow hair, Taran undergoes trials of will and strength and learns valuable life lessons. The books are based off of Celtic mythology, and for one familiar with that corpus, bits here and there will hold added charm and interest.
These books are well-written and full of memorable and endearing characters. Humor and pathos balance each other admirably, both very well fashioned; a certain silliness seems targeted toward the younger crowd, but the seriousness at the heart of the series is never lost in the well-crafted lightheartedness. The moral lessons are invariably sound and at times quite beautifully portrayed, a welcome change from much modern fiction targeted toward youth.
(The Black Cauldron was a Newbery Honor book, and The High King won the Newbery Medal.)