Sunday, March 13, 2011

♥♥♥♥♥♥: Voyage with the Vikings by Marianne Hering and Paul McCusker

Blurb: "Your Christ is a God of peace—not war!” Erik the Red said. “He has no place in Greenland.”
Mr. Whittaker, a kind but mysterious inventor, has sent cousins Patrick and Beth to Greenland through the Imagination Station. It’s the year 1000, and they meet Viking Erik the Red, who is angry about the new God. Mr. Whittaker wants the cousins to find a Sunstone, but what does one look like? And what does it have to do with the mysterious letter found in the inventor’s workshop? Most important, can Patrick and Beth find a Sunstone before Erik’s son Leif sails away with the Imagination Station on board his ship?

What Stephanie Thought: There were a couple problems I had with this book. For beginners, is it just me, or is the entire series just a poor ripoff of Mary Pope Osborne's Magic Tree House series? I grew up with Osborne's maniacally popular children's series, so it sort of offended me how suspiciously similar the two were. Not that I'm surprised someone would try to reinvent The MTH books, given how successful they were. 
And I am not just an angry elementary student all-grown-up; I'm serious about the congruences the books have to each other. In Magic Tree House, Jack and Annie find an abandoned tree house that can magically transport them to different times and places. Patrick and Beth find a similar "house", only it's an man-made machine, not-so-creatively named the Imagination Station. In Magic Tree House, the ethereal Morgan Lafay from Arthurian romance seeks Jack and Annie's help with finding the secret moonstone; in Imagination Station, the secretive Mr. Whittaker asks Patrick and Beth to find the magical sunstone. Okay, really? Doesn't that just make you furious?
I'll stop ranting about plagiarism here. Provided Random House doesn't sue Marianne Hering nor Paul McCusker for copyright issues, another thing that bothered me was how this was hardly a children's book. I mean, it was a children's book in terms of mildness and naivete ("Oh no, Patrick!"), but it seemed highly unlikely that a child age 7 and up could enjoy the story. Sure, it was full of adventure and suspense, but the female protagonist, Beth, didn't act like a seven-year-old. She just happened to know every little fact about ancient vikings and she's second grade? I don't think so.
Negativity aside, the Voyage with the Vikings had an interesting, intriguing plot. Like I said, as a second grader, I probably would not have been able to relate very well to the characters, but lots of mystery was garnered into the danger and ruthlessness of the vikings, and as far as I know, the historical facts were accurate and presented in a way to interest young readers. I enjoyed how Christian belief was a strong element of the novel; in the end, Christ as the Savior was who saved Patrick and Beth from perishing on a viking ship. It's a clever way to get children willing to read, and also to incorporate religious values; better than Sunday school!
I recommend Voyage with the Vikings to young Christians as a learning tool, but as a story, it lacks originality and the same "I need to read the next book!" eagerness the Magic Tree House series has. In fact, Mary Pope Osborne even wrote a MTH book on vikings; I recall enjoying it much more than Voyage with the Vikings! But then again, I'm speaking relatively, since I knew Osborne was not a weak copy-cat when I had been reading her book. In absolute terms, Osborne and McCusker's writing styles may be similar, but we all know which of the two will continue to win the favor of young readers' hearts.

Stephanie Loves: "She was wearing a long white dress. On top was a long green tunic. Two brooches were pinned at the shoulders. The tunic was neatly tied together with a leather belt. Her animal-skin boots came up to her knees.
'I feel like I'm in a fairy tale,' Beth said. 'It's fun to dress up.' "

Where Stephanie Got It: Tyndale Media Center for review.

Radical Rating: 6 hearts- Would recommend to people. ♥♥♥♥♥♥