Reviews - What do customers think about The Brothers Lionheart?
The mysterious beyond Jun 22, 2008
What happens when I die? Will I be all alone? Where will mom and dad be when I die? Will they be sad? What will happen to me after I die? These are questions children wonder about. When my daughter was about 5-6 years old she kept talking about "the mysterious beyond" where you go after you die. We have no idea where she got this idea from.
In this book, Astrid Lindgren, the Swedish author who also wrote the Pippi Longstocking books, the Emil books and the "Children of Noisy Village" books, address these difficult questions. She does this without giving any definite answers and still she succeeds to give comfort to children via this exciting and beautiful "after death adventure". Astrid Lindgren's writing is very much in tuned with the feelings of children and the story is spell binding and well paced.
Briefly, Scotty (Skorpan in the Swedish version) is a ten year old boy who is very sick. Everyone knows that he is dying except himself. Then one day he finds out in a cruel but accidental turn of events that he is going to die. To comfort him his older brother Jonathan tells him a story about Nangiyala, the land of adventures that lies beyond the stars, where you go after you die. As it turns out Scotty will not be going to Nangiyala alone. In fact the tragic and short life of Scotty and Jonathan and the love they developed for each other during their earthly lives enabled them to be the heroes that Nangiyala needs upon their arrival. The adventures in Nangiyala are much like many other good fantasy stories like the Chronicles of Narnia or the Lord of the Rings, but they also have a deeper meaning to them.
My teacher read this book to the entire class when I was about 9 years old (the Swedish version). All the kids in the class loved the book and we listened intently while our teacher struggled to read it. The death of your child is a parent's worst fear and having to deal with it head on like you do when reading this book is, I think, emotionally harder on the parent then on the child. I and my wife started reading this book to our daughter (8-years old) but she ended up reading the whole book to herself and she loved it.
It should be noted that the story is not tied to a specific set of religious beliefs about life after death, so if you have strong beliefs in what exactly will happen after death (religious beliefs or atheistic beliefs) you may have a problem with this fantasy version. In my opinion this book is Astrid Lindgren's greatest book. However, it is also her most potentially problematic book, so I advise that you read the first third of the book yourself before you read it to your child. This would help you to prepare answers to difficult questions and to verify that you really want to read it to your child. The writing is very sensitive, peaceful, and thoughtful but it deals with difficult questions. Some people have a problem with the ending so check out the ending too (I did not have a problem with the ending). I loved it as a child and so did my daughter but it may not be true for you, so find out.
One of the most tender stories ever... Mar 20, 2008
Way before Harry Potter and JK Rowling came along, European children book writers were taking children more seriously than most English and American writers. At the helm of this beautiful movement of children-centric literary world was Astrid Lindgren of Sweden and the wonderful Erich Kaestner of Germany, both well-known and widely read in non-English speaking Europe and most other places, but conviniently limited to a few of their works in UK and the USA (Pippi Longstocking for Lindgren and The Parent Trap for Kaestner).
Brothers Lionheart is Lindgren manifesting Kaestner's frustration at those childrens books authors who think that "children are made out of sweet pastries and cotton candy" (expressed at the beginning of the Flying Classroom, another master piece not known in the English speaking world). I read this book when I was 7 and have continued reading it, mainly in other languages, and had never seen it in English. The translation is good, although I do not like "Scotty" as a translation of Carl's nickname. The real one "Skorpan" (a sort of doughnut) is much nicer and homier.
Brothers Lionheart was very influential in my life. I learnt many lessons from it and enjoyed it very much, and I never felt that I was being preached to or was put down by the author. It is a novel that will appeal to children and even many adults (those who have not forgotten their childhood and thus their reason). I profoundly disagree with the person who is worried about the "negative" effects of the books darker issues (the after-life). It might surprise you that children are a lot more open-minded than their parents: they have not been spoiled by the prejudices we call "our heritage".
This book, I will claim, is one of the best books ever written, anywhere, in any language, and if it was me, I would have given it to all the 6 billion people in the world to read...
beautiful book 30 years ago as well as now Nov 27, 2007
I read this book when I was a child and it was one of my favorite. Now I finished reading it to my sons and they love it too. It took me a while to read the first two chapters though, I just couldn't stop sobbing...although I knew the story. It didn't take us long to finish the book, we needed to find out what was happening next...Such a great book, we will buy some copies and give them to friends!!!
Great adevnture with HORRIBLE ending Nov 1, 2007
SPOILER ALERT: Astrid Lindgren lost her marbles when she wrote the last chapter. The story is beautiful and as a christian I have no problems reading it to my children as a fantasy rendition. The illustration of evil regimes and quest for freedom is very moving and uncanny in many ways. Worth reading for this alone, but the ending speaks a message that should never have been spoken. The older boy, the hero, would rather kill himself and his younger brother in a suicide attempt, rather than living a life as a cripple. SICK!
Jonathan Chickenheart Jul 23, 2007
A number of stories end with the death of their heroes; this the first one I can recall that BEGINS with the death of its heroes. In addition the sometimes charming, sometimes terrifying illustrations by Ilon Wikland nicely complement the story.
Everyone knew that 10-year-old Karl (Scotty) Lion was dying, what with his crooked legs, his constant coughing, and now being too sick to go to school anymore; everyone except Scotty that is. But now he knows, and he's terrified. His brave, handsome, and loving brother, 13-year-old Jonathan Lion, tries to comfort him by telling him that when he dies he will go to Nangiyala, where all sagas come from, where he will be strong and no longer sick and where Jonathan will eventually join him, and because time passes differently in Nangiyala, it will only seem like a couple of days to Scotty even if Jonathan lives to be 90. But poor Jonathan must live on Earth without his Scotty, maybe for 90 years.
Well, it doesn't quite work out like they thought, but a couple of deeply moving, heartrending chapters later, the boys are together again in Nangiyala, and the REAL story begins. Jonathan told Scotty that in Nangiyala you have adventures from morning to evening and at night, too, but he failed to mention (or more likely failed to grasp himself) that there are adventures that should not happen... but do. There's a cruel tyrant in Nangiyala who has imprisoned the people of Wild Rose Valley and intends to do the same to Cherry Valley where the Brothers Lionheart now live,...
and it is going to be up to them, especially little Scotty who still doesn't believe he is brave at all, to stop him.
Astrid Lindgren, of Pippi Longstalking and Mio, My Son fame, has written a powerful and deeply moving story here that I'll not soon forget if ever. So why only three stars? Because I've got a serious problem with her shocker of an ending.
With far too many sincere but ill informed parents panicking over the Harry Potter books (while Philip Pullman's openly, even proudly Satanic "His Dark Materials" trilogy oozes by under the RADAR), I don't want to hit this too hard, but parents need to be aware of what is IMHO a serious flaw in this book. It is NOT as you might expect with the neo-pagan afterworld her story takes place in; IMHO there is nothing here that anyone whose religious beliefs postulate a different sort of afterlife need fear to expose his children to. It is FICTION after all. The problem is the ending.
The Brothers Lionheart triumph in the end but at a heavy cost; many friends are dead, including their beloved and faithful horses. Worst of all Jonathan has been poisoned and will soon be paralyzed, but he has a solution. It seems that when you die in Nangiyala you go on to Nangilima, where it is still the time of the sagas but only happy ones and no more adventures that should not happen. So if Scotty will take Jonathan upon his back and jump off a high cliff, just like Jonathan took Scotty upon his back and jumped out of an upper floor window to save Scotty's life from the fire at the cost of his own back at the beginning of the book, they can go to Nangilima now, together.
So that is exactly what they do,...
and I'm sorry, but this is SICK!
Jonathan earns the name of Lionheart when he risks his life, loses it in fact, in order to save his soon-to-die little brother, but when HE faces some amount of life (but probably not all that much) as a paralytic, he talks that very same brother into killing him along with himself, in order to get into a BETTER afterlife a little bit sooner. What in God's name was Lindgren thinking? Oh, I'm not especially worried about children reading this and killing themselves in order to go to Nangiyala, but our children could do without Yet Another message that if you are crippled, you are better off dead. They get quite enough of that from too many so-called "Pro-Choicers" who apparently fear that if people get the idea that life is still worth living even for the severely handicapped, they might begin to wonder about the ethics of killing the healthy but merely too small to scream.
END OF SPOILER
If you disagree with my opinion and own an older edition, The Purple House reprint of The Brothers Lionheart is worth picking up because of the smooth new English translation by Jill Morgan (the publisher herself?).