HONORS: Newbery Honor (1974)
REVIEW: On his eleventh birthday, Will Stanton, the seventh son of a seventh son, finds out that he is an Old One, an ancient race of beings who keep the Dark at bay in the name of the Light. No sooner does Will discover that his true purpose as the Seeker, the Old One destined to unite the Things of Power, than he is plunged into the battle between Light and Dark, Good and Evil. The story follows Will as he collects the Six Signs to form the Circle, pursued by the Black Rider, an agent of Darkness, and added by Merriman Lyon, The Lady and other Old Ones who have been fighting the Dark for centuries. Peppered with elements from Celtic myth and Arthurian legend, The Dark is Rising (the second in The Dark is Rising Sequence) is a layered and thoughtful combination of old myth, fantasy and contemporary suspense. It is a book that rewards focus and attention, even while giving it's readers an entertaining, satisfying ride.
OPINION: Beautifully written and briskly paced, The Dark is Rising, smacks of literary quality even as its premise is rooted firmly in the fantasy tradition. Will is a compelling hero - mature, smart, savvy and slightly flawed. He is a kid that most readers would want to be, or at least be friends with. His growth over the course of the novel, spurred primarily through his expanding view of the world, is one that many young readers will identify with, even if they themselves are unlikely to battle the Dark or call on the Wild Hunt for assistance. A tween fantasy classic for a reason, it is arguably the strongest title in The Dark is Rising Sequence, one that stands firmly on it's own.
IDEAS: A wonderful tie in to units on world mythology, particularly Celtic mythology and Arthurian legend. Also a good way to introduce theme, symbolism and allusion. A great recommendation to kids who need to read a Newbery book, but who are more interested in genre fiction than realism. This book has stood the test of time and still feels urgent and contemporary.