by Terry Pratchett, published 2003
“The secret is not to dream,” she whispered. “The secret is to wake up. Waking up is harder. I have woken up and I am real. I know where I come from and I know where I’m going. You cannot fool me anymore. Or touch me. Or anything that is mine.”
Talk about profound…a little goes a long way in a good children’s book, and The Wee Free Men has the perfect amount. The book is utterly profound when the author gets philosophical. When there was something to be said, like what it means to see the world clearly, it is said so simply, directly, and beautifully, that one can only hope every reader gets the point.
But the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down is humor: riotous laughter, jokes, and puns throughout. This children’s book (actually more for Young Adults) made me laugh out loud as 9-year-old Tiffany demonstrated her keen mind to rather dumb adults. As in: “Zoology, eh? That’s a big word, isn’t it?” “No, actually it isn’t,” said Tiffany. “Patronizing is a big word. Zoology is really quite short.”
Being philosophical myself, I value the way Terry Pratchett illuminates the power of thought in his writing. This theme has come up in several children’s books I reviewed, (such as the little fairy tale, The Great Quillow.) However, it comes alive as the main character demonstrates the power of self-reflection, and what happens when you observe your own thinking process. This is pretty heady stuff, and I don’t know how easily children take it in. But it is certainly a fabulous message to offer kids.
Another thing I loved about this children’s book is that while it is filled with supposedly scary stuff, I was never scared. I think one reason is because Tiffany, the nine-year-old heroine, was also not scared. She saw through most of the scary parts as just made up of dreams. How helpful that is for sensitive readers.
This is the first book by Pratchett I’ve ever read, and I understand he has many! I can wholeheartedly recommend this one to 12 and up. I think that 10 and 11-year-olds who are good readers and deep thinkers will also be able to get something out of it as well. It has an especially great role model for girls and women as wise women (aka witches.)