Book Review: The Green Ember

GreenEmberChildren need – no, deserve – stories which feed their spirits. This has been a foundational belief of mine for the better part of a decade, as long as I’ve been writing stories for children. The story of how all of that originated – thanks to Bruce Coville and my friend Cyndy – is better told at another time.

But it wasn’t until I met S.D. Smith that I acquired a term for the kind of spiritual development which stories can nourish in children. Smith calls this concept “holy imagination.” It’s the idea that stories on this side of eternity should exist to heighten children’s awareness and understanding of the Kingdom awaiting us on the other side. Stories should be celebrations of the true virtues – beauty, abundance, order – so as to image them into the lives of young minds still seeking a true conception of these weighty, abstract ideas. They enflesh them, so to speak.

Smith has built a whole website called Story Warren providing resources for families looking for ways to provide beauty and holy imagination for their children. And it’s a doozy. I’ve even been fortunate enough to contribute some pieces there now and then.

But that’s not why I’ve called you all here today. This is about a fantastic children’s book, which just happens to be written by Smith. Based on the above remarks, it makes sense, then, that The Green Ember, which released in December, is both a story with rabbits in it (which is pretty awesome on its own), and a story which presents a world in which a hunger for the Kingdom – Smith refers to it in the novel as the Mended Wood – so saturates the world of the story that it trickles down to characters’ casual conversations with each other.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself. I should first be talking about how this is an “instant classic.” That is to say, it shares the same spirit of derring-do involving small characters cast into big adventure against long odds with so many of the stories I’ve loved through the years, from Treasure Island to Watership Down. (There we go with rabbits again.)

The Green Ember is about two rabbits, sister Heather and brother Pickett, who find themselves caught up in the struggle at the fabric of their world and seek to right some pretty dreadful wrongs. Along the way, they wrestle with their own weaknesses and encounter dastardly deeds, danger, and double-crosses. (Thankfully, no terrifying over-use of alliteration.) It’s entertaining, thought-provoking, beautifully-written, and I’m sure will challenge its young readers to dig deep by inspiring them with both the successes and failures of its lapine protagonists.

I’ve already been thrilled to share stories like Stuart Little and The Gallant Pig with my first-grader, and I can’t wait until I can introduce him to Heather and Pickett. They’re just the kind of story-friends I think he’ll love spending time with.

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