The Taker and the Keeper (Red Monocle 1) for Timeslip Tuesday

The Taker and the Keeper, by Wim Colemand and Pat Perrin (ChironBooks, 2009, 158pp, ages 8 and up), is one of those books that isn't quite a timeslip, in as much as the time to which the children travel isn't real, but since the kids think for a good part of the book that they've travelled through time, I'm doing to go with it for today's edition of Timelip Tuesday.

Gregory and Yolanda are two ordinary middle school kids, who are about to become heroes. The colored lenses that Gregory found in a box discarded by their old science teacher are more than just pieces of glass--they let the kids see a dark tunnel that leads them back to the Dark Ages. But it is a Dark Ages in even more trouble than usual. The stone that holds Excalibur, waiting for young Arthur to pull it out, is there, but the sword is gone. Morgan Le Fey has stolen it in her own bid for power, and in doing so has just messed up the course of history, both in the realm of ancient story, and in our own modern world.

It's up to Gregory, the Taker of risks, and Yolanda, the Keeper of the true stories, to help Merlin and his young apprentice set things straight.

This is the sort of book that's great for a nine or ten year-old looking for a pretty straightforward narrative punctuated by danger (like a battle with a giant venomous serpent) and adventure (scaling the walls of a forbidding castle, and confronting the animated suits of armour inside). The "timeslip" part is rather nicely done, and I chuckled when Yolanda, confronting the medieval folk, assumes they are costumed festival participants--"These people really need to get a life," she grumbles (page 53).

In many ways The Taker and the Keeper reminded me of the Magic Tree House books (although at a reading level several grades up), which is a fine thing if you are a young reader, but less so if you are an adult lover of middle grade fantasy. Like those books, stylistically this one is aimed at young readers (shortish sentences, relatively un-latinate vocabulary), and story-wise, the experienced fantasy reader is not going to be blown away by the plot or stunned by the depth of characterization.

But the kid who's perhaps a reluctant reader might well find this an exciting read, and that's who it's written for, after all. I am pretty sure my own nine-year old will enjoy it a lot.

(Bonus points to the book for featuring a girl of color, a non-issue in the story, but apparent in the cover art).

The Taker and the Keeper has been nominated for the Cybils Awards in the MG Sci fi/fantasy category. Many thanks to the publisher for sending us panelists review copies! And please feel free to purchase this, or any other book you want, through the Cybils link at the right, to help fund the awards!

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