Anyone who has known me for any considerable amount of time knows that I am a lover of stories. I am a voracious reader and I tend to agree with Erasmus in that “when I get a little money I buy books; if any is left, I buy food and clothes.” I have been known to hunt down out-of-print titles and stalk eBay for hard to find editions for months on end. I have broken the wheels on suitcases under the weight of my bounty from library sales. If it seems to outsiders like I am on a mission, it is because I am.
I believe in the power of stories. I believe that stories form us by nourishing our souls and ordering what our hearts love. I believe that stories provide the fertile soil in which Truth, Goodness, and Beauty can take root in our hearts and eventually grow into Wisdom and Virtue. I am drawn to stories that kindle the moral imagination and echo to us the whispers of the Great Storyteller. And when I find these kinds of stories, I want to shout it from the rooftops. That is why, over the past 18 months, my friends have heard me gush once or twice (or a few dozen times) over my love for The Green Ember by S.D. Smith.
The Green Ember has been called “a new story with an old soul,” and I believe that is a fitting description. Although it was Smith’s first novel, it seems as if it could have been written generations ago. It is full of the adventure, heroism, mystery, and virtue that distinguishes stories of old, yet it resonates today with readers of all ages.
“You can choose what you believe…but you can’t change what’s true.”
It seems strange at first to think that a story about anthropomorphic rabbits would be as beloved by adults as it is by the children for whom it is written. But it’s true. After the first few chapters, I was absolutely captivated by Heather and Picket and their adventure and peril. Perhaps that is because the character development is superb and the plot is so well thought out. It truly is a good story in the old-fashioned sense. But what enthralled me the most, I think, is the way that the story, as seen through the eyes of the main characters, is told in such a way that I felt as if I become a part of it. Heather and Picket’s world comes undone at the beginning of the book, and they get caught up in the peril and calamity of the wider world around them. They realize how their little lives are very much linked to the bigger story going on around them, and I walked with them through that discovery and on the journey to become who they truly are. It made me think, in a very profound way, about my own life and the bigger story of which I am a part. I want to summon Heather’s fortitude and Picket’s courage as I face the calamity that is the world around me.
“All of life is a battle against fear. We fight it on one front, and it sneaks around to our flank.”
Don’t be mistaken; these characters are not perfect. They display the same flaws that many of us see in ourselves. There is selfishness, cowardice, and even betrayal. There is uncertainty and true peril. There is very real pain. But nothing is gratuitous and it is the peril and pain that shape the characters into who they were born to be.
“Growing up is terribly wonderful. But often it’s also wonderfully terrible.”
The Green Ember is written for middle grades, but it has been enjoyed immensely as a read-aloud by our entire family. My six-year-old, my husband, and I all rated it as one of our very favorite books last year. Because of the anthropomorphized animals and Christian themes that permeate the story, it has been compared to C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, and I would say that it is also of similar level and intensity, particularly The Last Battle. This is a book that deeply nourishes the moral imagination and kingdom longing in our children, and it deserves to have a permanent place on the shelf of every family library.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is a book that absolutely begs for a sequel, and the good news is, the Kickstarter for the sequel, Ember Falls, launches TODAY! By supporting S.D. Smith in the launch for Ember Falls, you can not only be one of the first to get a copy of the sequel, but you can be an integral part of bringing more of these beautiful, wholesome stories into the world for our children. (Click here to see why Sam and Andrew chose Kickstarter as a way to bring Ember Falls to print.)
I’ve got a new wheeled suitcase ready. You can bet I will be collecting multiple copies for our shelves.
“We are heralds of the Mended Wood…We sing about it. We paint it. We make crutches and soups and have gardens and weddings and babies. This is a place out of time. A window into the past and the future world. We are heralds, you see, my dear, saying what will surely come. And we prepare with all our might, to be ready when once again we are free.”
To see Plumfield and Paideia partner Sara Masarik’s review and tons of links for The Green Ember, click here. And to see Sara’s review of The Black Star of Kingston, a Green Ember prequel, click here.