Monday, July 24, 2006

"A Gloriously Fearless Heroine"

Last week, I was looking for a kids' quest story. What I found was The Illyrian Adventure by Lloyd Alexander. I've certainly heard of Alexander, but I'd never read anything by him.

Well, now I have.

On the backflap to the 1986 hardcover of this book, Alexander says, "The Illyrian Adventure was intended as an entertainment, with a gloriously fearless heroine, legendary heroes, inscrutable mysteries, and fiendish villains." I don't know how inscrutable the mystery was and the villain was a garden-variety fiend. But the heroine, Vesper Holly, was gloriously fearless.

The Illyrian Adventure reminded me of the historical novels I enjoyed when I was a teenager--a strong, outside-the-box heroine in a historical setting. The book is actually narrated by the orphaned Vesper's guardian, a somewhat inept, Watson-type figure who is constantly referring to her as "dear girl."

I've known of mothers looking for books with strong girl characters for their young daughters. The Illyrian Adventure would be a good suggestion. It's the first in a series of Vesper Holly books that girls in, say, fourth through seventh grade could really enjoy.

One objection--I read a book from the 1980s with a cover fitting with the historical period (1872) in which the story takes place. The new covers on the current paperbacks look as if Vesper is a cross between a camp counselor and Indiana Jones (who I've never cared for, by the way). I'm not certain, but I don't think her hair is even the right color, forget about being a style that would fit her time period.

The Vesper on the cover definitely clashes with the Vesper in the book.


Blogger Leila the Great said...

I don't remember which book it's in, but at one point LA says:

"Miss Vesper Holly has the digestive talents of a goat and the mind of a chess master. She is familiar with half a dozen languages and can swear fluently in all of them."

Best. Introduction. Ever.

Vesper is WAY cooler than Indiana Jones. I loved her as a ten-year-old, I still love her as a twenty-nine-year-old. She just plain RULES.

4:15 PM  
Blogger gail said...

Yes, even in the first book Vesper's guardian is very impressed with her eating habits.

7:43 PM  

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