Monday, November 12, 2007
Book Review: The Seventh Chair
The Seventh Chair
by Ann Keffer
The Seventh Chair is a 2007 Cybils nominee.
At a Catholic School in Washington DC, a chair comes out of the sky and lands on the playground. Seated in the chair is a being who appears to be a nun, but who turns out to be Merlin. Merlin has come in the Siege Perilous looking for his new protégé, a modern-day Arthur who can help the world out of its troubles. But first he has to deal with a confused headmaster, a school bully, and a missing grail.
The Seventh Chair is a cute, funny, and lively story. Unfortunately, though, author Ann Keffer made a mistake that many novice children's writers make: she wrote the story from an adult perspective. Not only does most of the story follow the adult characters, rather than the children, but it seems to be written with an adult way of looking at the world. Also, while the book looks and reads like it's intended for a fairly young audience, there are some difficult vocabulary words. I'm not in the camp that believes that all children's books should have controlled vocabulary. I think it's good for children to be exposed to difficult vocabulary words. But if you have too many of them, it can frustrate budding readers.
In spite of these flaws, though, The Seventh Chair is an entertaining book. I quite enjoyed it, but then, I'm an adult and not the target audience. I have a hard time judging whether elementary-age children will enjoy it. I think that children will enjoy the humor, especially the way that the adult characters are depicted as largely incompetent. I loved the way that the school bully is depicted as a sympathetic character, and the ending was refreshing.
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This business about not being the target audience makes it tricky to judge a book. I'm finding the same thing in reading all the YA Cybils nominees; I have been brooding about my own time in high school, trying to recapture those long ago years...what joy.
This book actually sounds rather appealing--perhaps one could get past the vocaulary issue by reading it aloud to the actual target audience. I find that quite "hard" books go over rather well this way...(and it is a lot easier to tell if a book is well written when you're reading it out loud).
I agree that it's really hard to judge, and that's why I tried to convey that in the review. It is a fun book, and I think that many kids will enjoy it, especially, as you suggest, as a read-aloud. And I don't think that adult main characters are necessarily a flaw in a children's book, but in this case, there also seemed to be an adult way of looking at the world that I think won't appeal to children as much as it does to adults. But then, I could easily be wrong. My son is a little old now for this type of book, so I can't use him as a test case, LOL.
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