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The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain Book 1) Paperback – May 16, 2006

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Ultimate Weird but True 3: 1,000 Wild and Wacky Facts and Photos
Ultimate Weird but True 3: 1,000 Wild and Wacky Facts and Photos
Get ready for zany weird-but-true fun with 1,000 all-new wacky facts, photos, and too-strange-to-believe stories in the newest book in the popular series. See more | Weird But True series
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Editorial Reviews Review

The tale of Taran, assistant pig keeper, has been entertaining young readers for generations. Set in the mythical land of Prydain (which bears a more than passing resemblance to Wales), Lloyd Alexander's book draws together the elements of the hero's journey from unformed boy to courageous young man. Taran grumbles with frustration at home in the hamlet Caer Dallben; he yearns to go into battle like his hero, Prince Gwydion. Before the story is over, he has met his hero and fought the evil leader who threatens the peace of Prydain: the Horned King.

What brings the tale of Taran to life is Alexander's skillful use of humor, and the way he personalizes the mythology he has so clearly studied. Taran isn't a stick figure; in fact, the author makes a point of mocking him just at the moments when he's acting the most highhanded and heroic. When he and the young girl Eilonwy flee the castle of the wicked queen Achren, Taran emotes, "'Spiral Castle has brought me only grief; I have no wish to see it again.' 'What has it brought the rest of us?' Eilonway asked. 'You make it sound as though we were just sitting around having a splendid time while you moan and take on.'" By the end, Alexander has spun a rousing hero's tale and created a compelling coming-of-age story. Readers will sigh with relief when they realize The Book of Three is only the first of the chronicles of Prydain. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Gr 4–7—While the general public may be more familiar with the second book in the series, The Black Cauldron, due to the 1985 Disney film adaptation, true fantasy lovers know The Book of Three as one of the most iconic and influential works of middle grade fiction from the 20th century. Based on Welsh mythology, the tale stars Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper on a hero's quest, joined by a comic cast of supporting characters. Filled with wit, wordplay, and an epic battle of good vs. evil, Alexander's novel helped pave the way for countless fantasy adventures. Included in this 50th anniversary edition is an introduction by Shannon Hale, an author's note, a rather helpful pronunciation guide, an interview with Lloyd Alexander, a story from The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain, and the first chapter of The Black Cauldron. The physical presentation will appeal to collectors; this edition features a deep red cloth binding accented with ornate gold and black illustrations on the cover, and deckled edges, befitting a classic. An absolute must-have for fantasy fans. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 770L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 190 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (May 16, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805080481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805080483
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (363 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Few writers have inspired as much affection and interest among readers young and old as Lloyd Alexander. At one point, however, it seemed unlikely that he would ever be a writer at all. His parents could not afford to send him to college. And so when a Philadelphia bank had an opening for a messenger boy, he went to work there. Finally, having saved some money, he quit and went to a local college. Dissatisfied with not having learned enough to be a writer he left at the end of one term. Adventure, he decided was the best way. The United States had already entered World War II. Convinced that here was a chance for real deeds of derring-do, he joined the army -- and was promptly shipped to Texas where he became, in disheartening succession an artilleryman, a cymbal player in the band, an organist in the post chapel, and a first-aid man. At last, he was assigned to a military intelligence center in Maryland. There he trained as a member of a combat team to be parachuted into France to work with the Resistance. "This, to my intense relief, did not happen," says Alexander. Instead, Alexander and his group sailed to Wales to finish their training. This ancient, rough-hewn country, with its castles, mountains, and its own beautiful language made a tremendous impression on him. But not until years later did he realize he had been given a glimpse of another enchanted kingdom. Alexander was sent to Alsace-Lorraine, the Rhineland, and southern Germany. When the war ended, he was assigned to a counterintelligence unit in Paris. Later he was discharged to attend the University of Paris. While a student he met a beautiful Parisian girl, Janine, and they soon married. Life abroad was fascinating, but eventually Alexander longed for home. The young couple went back to Drexel Hill, near Philadelphia, where Alexander wrote novel after novel which publishers unhesitatingly turned down. To earn his living, he worked as a cartoonist, advertising writer, layout artist, and associate editor for a small magazine. It took seven years of constant rejection before his first novel was at last published. During the next ten years, he wrote for adults. And then he began writing for young people.Doing historical research for Time Cat he discovered material on Welsh mythology. The result was The Book of Three and the other chronicles of Prydain, the imaginary kingdom being something like the enchanted land of Wales. In The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen Alexander explored yet another fantastic world. Evoking an atmosphere of ancient China, this unique multi-layered novel was critically acclaimed as one of his finest works. Trina Schart Hyman illustrated The Fortune-tellers as a Cameroonian folktale sparkling with vibrant images, keen insight and delicious wit. Most of the books have been written in the form of fantasy. But fantasy, Alexander believes, is merely one of many ways to express attitudes and feelings about real people, real human relationships and problems

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

204 of 209 people found the following review helpful By CT music fan on December 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
There are books that you don't want to see come to an end.
There are books that rattle in your brain, heart and soul, and stay with you, never to be forgotten.
Lloyd Alexander's magnificent series falls into these categories. I first read them at the age of 13 and have just read them again at 35. This series was the first that I did not want to see end. It's what got me started on reading Tolkien, Lewis, Donaldson, Piers Anthony, Dune, and others. I'm glad to see so many people love these books as well.
And why not? The characters are dynamic, engaging and more real than the average fantasy ones. The stories move along nicely with few if any slow moments. The classic elements of good and evil are all here with some twists.
There were some aspects that I was too young to appreciate the first time. One was the humor, most noticeable in The Book of Three, as we see some of the characters getting to first know each other. The other aspect was the theme/message that the way of the warrior is not the only path to nobility, honor, and courage (or to adulthood). There is as much honor in taking care of a garden as there is in being a warrior, to very loosely paraphrase one of the characters. In this day and age, when so much of the culture says be the biggest, baddest, toughest, strongest, richest etc person who destroys or gobbles up things, the message of taking care of one's garden, creating something of beauty be it a woven cloak or a clay pot, or honoring a friend's request is refreshing and not heard enough.
To the other reviewers who feel Alexander borrowed characters and motifs heavily from Tolkien, these have been part of literature and mythology for a long time. Long BEFORE Tolkien. If Dallben is Gandalf, well, Gandalf is Merlin.
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123 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Neil Roseman on November 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I read this book for the first time about 30 years ago, when I was 10 years old. Recently I re-read the entire series, and was enchanted again.
The tale of Taran and friends has everything a great children's book should: adventure, danger, good, evil, love and death. And, there is lots of humor, too, which you don't always find in similar clasics. The writing is great throughout -- this is not Goosebumps -- and the child who has the privilege of reading the Chronicles will surely be changed. The story, based on Welsh legends, subtly explores the great mysteries of life, and teaches lessons about bravery, honesty, compassion and devotion, without ever being preachy or obvious.
These books belong on the same shelf as the L'Engle Time trilogy, Susan Cooper's Dark is Rising Sequence, the Narnia Books and a small number of others.
Buy this for a favorite kid (maybe one that has gotten hooked on reading through "Harry Potter"), but get it for yourself, too.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have often jokingly told people to read this before reading JRR Tolkein because it's "Hobbit"-lite. But my jest is with all affection. "The Book of Three" is the first of five books (not including the 6th of short stories) involving the fantasy world of Prydain. Lloyd Alexander borrows heavily from Gaelic and Welsh mythology to create the tale of Taran, Assistant Pig-keeper for the enchanter Dallben. In this book we are introduced to Taran, a boy on the cusp of manhood eager to take part in the adventures of the world. Dark forces under the direction of Awran, the Death-Lord threaten the lives of all in Prydain, and none is more feared that the gruesom "Horned King". After leaping "headfirst into a thorn bush" young Taran finds himself face to face with this dreaded champion of darkness who has come from Annuvuin in search of Hen-wen, the oracular pig under Taran's charge. I won't spoil any more of the story except to say that this book introduces many of the characters that appear later on in the rest of the series: the stubborn and lovely Princess Eilonwy, the king-who-wants-to-be-a-bard Fflewder Flam, the cantankerous Doli of the fairfolk, Coll- the warrior turned farmer, and more. Lloyd Alexander's fantasy tale, in my opinion, rivals that of Tolkein as a richly crafted work with wonderful images and a deep understanding and appreciation for the thoughts and feelings of a young man like Taran. The text is easy to read, and the story flows smoothly along. Each book can stand alone, but together create a magnificant epic tapestry. The names of the characters are a little hard to get used to, but not impossible. This is the kind of book you can read out loud at bed-time to young childern.Read more ›
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Christopher B. Jonnes on March 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
This first book in Lloyd Alexander's five-book series introduces most of the characters we come to know and love in the later books: Taran, Eilonwy, Hen-Wen, Doli, Coll, Dallben, Gurgi (with his many munchings and crunchings), Gwydion; and the evil players, Arawn, Achren, the Huntsmen of Annuvin, Gwythaints, the Cauldron Born, and the chief antagonist in this book, the Horned King (depicted on the cover).
Alexander draws deeply from Welsh mythology to bring us one of the finest fantasy series ever written, teeming with colorful wizards, princes, dwarves, and assorted monsters. It's heavily laden with virtue and positive messages without ever preaching. In The Book of Three, our hero, Taran Wanderer cuts his teeth in adventure and battle against the Horned King, showing early hints the greatness to come.
This first book is not by itself one of the great literary works, but is a worthy and required warm-up to the genius of the complete work. I believe these tales of the land of Prydain rank with Narnia and Tolkien's Middle Earth. Personally, I rank the Prydain series as number two behind the Ring Trilogy, and slightly better than the Narnia Chronicles. Alexander's books are easier reading than Tolkien's, but lack the depth. Of course, that's like saying K2 isn't as high as Everest. Who cares? --Christopher Bonn Jonnes, author of Wake Up Dead.
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