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Artemis Fowl (new cover) Paperback – June 23, 2009
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If ever there was a book series that could be used to introduce the concept of “anti-hero” to a middle grade audience, it is Artemis Fowl (or, you know, my novella Anchihiiroo – Origin of an Antihero, but I digress). Artemis Fowl II, in the debut book of this series, is the very definition of someone willing to do anything it takes (even a little kidnapping and ransom-demanding) for what is ultimately a good cause (trying to save his mother). One of my favorite things about this series is that Artemis, being a genius, has a very large vocabulary. The diction in this book is a lot more advanced and complex than many other middle grade books and I personally used it as a benchmark in my own writing for not talking down to a young audience (which I find many, many middle grade and even young adult books do). Colfer has found that great sweet spot to challenge young readers without dismissing their capabilities.
That being said, the story is a simple one that is very easy and fun to follow. The basic frame of the story follows the “heist” format. There are twists and turns and plans on top of plans. Sometimes they work and sometimes they fail. Sometimes they seem to fail but end up working (think of a fairy tale version of Ocean’s 11). Apparently Colfer himself has referred to it as “Die Hard with fairies” with which I can’t argue. Colfer has created his own sub-society of magical fairy creatures that presents the underlying mystery and magic to the series. At the same time, Artemis is a regular (well, as regular as a multi-millionaire genius pre-teen with a bit of an evil mastermind complex can be) human kid who breaks open the mysteries of this underworld.
When I first discovered this series years ago, I was excited to find a middle grade series that had a protagonist that wasn’t your bubbly “chosen one” stereotype. Artemis, due to his intelligence and resources, is way deeper and more complex than your typical middle grade hero. That alone is worth a read. Couple that with a fun and colorful underworld full of faeries, gnomes, and other supernatural beings and it’s a can’t-miss.
This book is more than appropriate for the youngest of readers. Any violence is cartoonish in nature, for the most part. There are no language or sexual content concerns either.
As the series goes on, there are points that get a little darker, but never does Colfer waver from the PG family friendly nature of this first book.
As an aside: there is also a wonderful graphic novel adaptation of this first book that can serve to help a struggling reader or a reader who might need a little more visual aides (or just someone who really likes graphic novels!).
5/5 Giant Cartoon Mallets from Toonopolis, The Blog's Books for Boys Review
I do wish there had been some formatting differences for the rather frequent point-of-view shifts. Sometimes there was no indicator, such as spacing, asterisks, a divider, etc. There was a lot of "gross-out" content. I really grew a little weary of the dwarf and his flapped trousers... For parents, there is a bit of light swearing consisting of mostly "damn" and "hell" (and a few made-up and implied explicitive phrases). Some may be concerned about the death of a rabbit at the hands of the flap-trousered dwarf.
Overall, this was an entertaining read. I will likely be "back" for book two, once I've cleared up some of my Kindle slush-pile. I don't regret re-purchasing this in Kindle format, at least, it filled a few sessions of light reading for a few days.
I began homeschooling my own son when he started 4th grade, and this is one of the first books I added to our home library. I read it, loved it, and proceeded to buy the rest of the published books. My son and my daughter both read all of these books, back to back, and now my grandson has started the series!
It's perfect for those who enjoy fantasy. Artemis is an incredibly smart boy whose father was killed when Artemis was much younger. Artemis' mother is emotionally devastated and spends much time by herself, leaving Artemis to his own devices. And while this is sad for Artemis, it's not overdone or depressing. It also makes him a fantastic character that kids become completely invested in.
If you have a child, or know of one, who is always thinking, always wanting to experiment... a kid with a vivid imagination who's just too clever for their own good, this is a fantastic book for them. Heck, it's good for anyone who loves a reading adventure!