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Jessica's letter to Mr. Lloyd Alexander
By Jessica Lyn Butler
Genre: Non-fiction Level: Junior 7-9
Year: 1999 Category: Letters About Literature

Dear Mr. Lloyd Alexander,

I have been reading your books for several years now, and have found that you are one of the few contemporary authors whose work rivals (and perhaps surpasses), that of the authors of classical literature. For instance, in the Westmark Trilogy, I discovered that much of the events parallel the French Revolution in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. In the Vesper Holly series, I find the dialogue both amusing and witty, increasingly so when Dr. Helvitius is involved. It rather reminds me of George Bernard Shaw, particularly in his work, The Devil's Disciple, a name which misleads you as to the true nature of the play. And finally in The Prydain Chronicles, my personal favorite, you use an ingenious combination of folklore, fact, and imagination. This is a combination so familiar in C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces, and his much loved Chronicles of Narnia.

Not only that, but no matter what sort of 'mood' I'm looking for in a book, I'm sure to find at least one of your books that complies with my wishes. If I want a book with an excellent plot, a lot of action, and firm morals, I can be totally satisfied with the Westmark Trilogy. Of course sometimes I just want to read something amusing, but well written so I proceed to read the Vesper Holly series, following her from Illyria to Philadelphia. But my number one choice for fantasy is The Prydain Chronicles, a better series I have yet to read, or has yet to be written.

What I love most about The Prydain Chronicles are the colorful characters. The complement each other perfectly as a company. Eilonwy is, by far, my favorite. Her spirits are never easily dampened and she always knows what she is talking about, even though she talks a great deal. Doli, the dwarf, is probably the most similar to me. He "just can't stand a botched job," and it is usual for him to wish he could turn invisible to avoid contact with others. He is often bemused at the ignorance of certain assistant pig-keepers. Which brings me to the assistant pig-keeper, Taran, (always accompanied by Gurgi), who fancies he'd rather be off fighting Gwithyants and Huntsmen, rather than tending the pig, Hen-Wen. He is mostly kept in line by Coll, who has seen much adventure, and knows he would rather be tending his orchard than anything else. Fflewddur Fflam, the kind who would rather be a bard, is quite an exaggerator. He is kept in line only by his harp, which somehow seems to snap a string whenever he 'colors the facts'. Gwydion of the house of Don, usually serves as a leader to the companions, but even he will listen to the council of Dallben. As the story progresses, more characters are added. Some are sorrowfully removed such as Prince Ruhn, the feckless prince, who dies a courageous death none would have ever expected of him. Arawn, the death lord, serves as the main force of evil throughout the story and is at last defeated in one final, glorious battle. This series focuses a great deal on the morals of each character, Taran in particular. He struggles with his belief that he is of a 'low birth', and finally comes to the realization that honor is far more important than official title or rank. I fully agree with that philosophy.

Your books are filled with colorful characters, who are all both extraordinary and human. Books like The Kestrel show great struggles inside people that parallel those outside. In The Iron Ring, Tamar learns that no matter whom you are born to, all men are equal, a sentiment that too few people share. I find your books intelligent, amusing, interesting, and thought provoking, the only problem being that there are not more than there are.


Jessica Lyn Butler
8th grade
Homeschool Student, Anchorage

Additional Comment by Jessica

As a homeschooler in the eighth grade I enjoy reading, cooking and spending time outside. I also enjoy drama and have just finished performing in The Toad of Toad Hall with the Anchorage Community Theater. I have just moved to Anchorage, Alaska, from Atlanta, Georgia this summer with my four brothers and sisters, three dogs, two cats, and three rabbits. I love Alaska and hope to stay here for a long while.

Jessica L. B.

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