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Book Review: The Brothers Lionheart

 

10-year-old Karl Lion (called Rusky) spends most of his days on a sofa-bed. When he finds out he doesn’t have long to live, his only comfort is in the tales told to him by his beloved older brother, Jonathan (called Lionheart for his bravery). The tales are of Nangiyala, an afterlife where everything is wonderful.

But when the brothers eventually find themselves in Nangiyala, not everything is as wonderful as it should be. Invaders, dragons, traitors, wolves—the brothers must battle all of these to save their beautiful Cherry Valley.

You may recognize Astrid Lindgren as the author of the Pippi Longstocking books. According to UNESCO statistics (http://www.unesco.org/xtrans/bsstatlist.aspx), she is the 18th most-translated author in the world—and #1 for Swedish authors.

“Why did you save Park’s life, was that so good?”

“I don’t know if it was such a good thing to do,” said Jonathan. “But there are things you have to do, otherwise you’re not a human being, just a piece of dirt. I’ve said this to you before.”

“But what if he’d realized who you were?’”I said. “And they had caught you!”

“Well, then they would’ve caught Lionheart and not a piece of dirt,” said Jonathan. The Brothers Lionheart is not your typical children’s fairy-tale. While the writing and the images are beautiful, and the loyalty of the brothers touching, the topics are rather grim. Characters die.

The ending seems to be controversial, depending on its interpretation. Is the story real? Or was Rusky imagining the whole thing in order to accept his inevitable death?

Hopeful and melancholy, this adventure is not to be taken lightly.

–Recommended for ages 8 and up.

ISBN (paperback 2009): 978-0192729040

Items for Discussion

What is courage? Do you think Rusky was brave? If so, when did you begin to think that? Would you have made the same decisions as Rusky? What does Jonathan mean when he says “there are things you have to do”?

What is loyalty? Whom did you think was the traitor, and why? Why did [the traitor] betray Cherry Valley? Why did the soldiers follow Tengil?

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