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At the Back of the North Wind (Radio Theatre) Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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At the centre of the story is a small boy named Diamond, son of a poor coachman – who also has a horse with the same name. The boy Diamond sleeps in the loft over the stable (right over the stall of Diamond the horse); and in the wall by his bed there is a knothole, through which the North Wind blows. In Diamond’s dreams (or is it more than just dreams?), the North Wind takes the shape of a beautiful woman with long hair – sometimes small like a fairy, sometimes huge and awe-inspiring like a mighty storm – sweeping Diamond away on nightly adventures, both in his own town and to a distant land, “at the back of the north wind”.
Diamond is at the same time a mystery and a joy to the people around him. Kind and helpful and trusting, and making friends whereever he goes - but also going his own ways, showing both practical initiative, and surprising people by fanciful ideas, rhymes and dreams. He’s naive in some ways, and yet also wise and philosphical far beyond his age. Some think he’s not quite right in his head; but he never takes offense.
It is not a book easy to categorize. Take the basic setting (including poor little boy) from a novel by Charles Dickens; put it down a rabbit hole (as in Alice in Wonderland - 1865); add a good portion of classic fairy tale and fable; mix in some serious theodicy questions and answers; and serve with a sprinkle of nursery rhymes on top. It’s very much up to the reader’s taste to decide what to make of it!
I read it the first time about 25 years ago in Swedish translation, and reread it now because I found had forgotten most of it, and also wanted to read it in the original language. The story also makes a lot of deviations like long nursery rhymes and whole fairy tales told within the story. Some of the details deserve more attention than one might think at first, as there are plenty of parallells between the ‘reality’ vs. stories and dreams within the book (much like the roots of our dreams can often be found in our daytime life).
It’s not a book I’d recommend as a must-read for everyone. My guess is that some will stll love it while other modern readers may find it strange and too old-fashioned in style. But if you are interested in classic children’s literature and fantasy, I think you will probably recognise themes and ideas also used by many other authors within those genres.
I suspect that it would be difficult for today’s elementary students to read and understand the work without assistance because of its style and the alienness of its world. Older, more worldly and pseudo sophisticated middle schoolers may find it naïve or jejune. However I would encourage it for the special child and adults who still have some sense of wonder left in themselves.
This particular edition is handsome and an excellent value. The novel’s otherworldly magic is enhanced by the many original illustrations by preraphaelite artist, Arthur Hughes. I will be giving a copy to a right person this Christmas.
MacDonald was a Christian minister, so of course some readers will discount his writings.
The main narrative follows the life of a young boy named Diamond and his family as they experience, misery, poverty, joy, and good fortune. The story also includes a super natural element where the North Wind appears to be a beautiful lady that speaks to Diamond teaching him things about her nature and purpose and ushering him to the land that lies at the back of the north wind.
Two days after finishing the book, I'm still reflecting on the meaning and the indirect lessons the author wove into the narrative. I really enjoyed the simple nature of the story, the good-natured Diamond, and the overall moral about not fearing the North Wind if you are a good person. I felt the author got his point across in a way that wasn't overly preachy, and I think this would be a good story for families to read together.