Why are my recent reads unexpected surprises? I did not expect Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men to be for kids 7-12 years old. Information on the web said it’s a YA novel set in Discworld but with YA, I automatically think Catcher in the Rye, Looking for Alaska, and even Harry Potter; not… Narnia. Target reading levels aren’t relevant though, just saying. Oh well, moving on:
In Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men, nine-year old Tiffany Aching carries a frying pan for a weapon and is accompanied to fairyland by a toad. Reminds you of Disney’s Rapunzel in Tangled, ain’t it? And I quite imagine Tiffany being a younger version of the 2010 Rapunzel, but being a big fan of the movie, I really didn’t mind.
The book had themes I’ve seen of old like a Queen who enamors/kidnaps people into a land of nightmares and who leaves trails of snow everywhere (Narnia’s White Queen?), and standing up to the big boss on your own that is reminscent of Meg Murray’s audacity in A Wrinkle in Time. The similarities end there though, and even with recurrent themes, the book was refreshing and was a delight from start to finish.
The Wee Free Men is named after the Nac Mac Feegles. A bunch of rowdy and drunken theives (pictured above in blue) who aren’t scared of anything (except lawyers) and are always ready for a fight. This bunch of little nuggets are the funniest. They are so inappropriate and rude and just hilarious. I really like the surprise with the toad too. It made me laugh out loud at a really grave time irl, and my family gave me looks that were questioning my mental state.
Even if the prose for The Wee Free Men is catered more for the younger audience, this book can still very well be enjoyed by older readers. It’s wonderfully written and laugh-out-loud hilarious even for adults like myself (sadface). It is also surprisingly deep with its themes of death and despair and losing people you love. I was also pleasantly astonished (lol) with how Sir Terry used mindfullness like it was some sort of powerful weapon. It was a very inventive approach to magical powers.
The book also introduced me to this wonderful painting called, The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke:
It looks so captivating and… pregnant. It was painted by Richard Dadd who was diagnosed with a mental illness, murdered his father and went on to paint this, along with many other pieces, in a mental institution. Dadd took nine years to finish this beast. I want to personally see it someday.
Quotes after the cut:
The skylarks stopped singing, and while she hadn’t really noticed their song, their silence was a shock. Nothing’s louder than the end of a song that’s always been there.
I don’t want to think she’s just… gone. Someone like Granny Aching can’t just…not be there anymore.
The secret is not to dream. The secret is to wake up. Waking up is harder.
Amazon tells me that the reading level for The Wee Free Men is ages 13 and up. Pfft. Challenge your kids. I don’t mean to sound snarky*, but I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was 10, dagnabbit.