Today's book is part of a series I've talked about before. The book -- The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper, is the second in the sequence.
I am recommending it today for two reasons. First, I think it is a great Yuletide story in the old meaning of the word -- all the action takes place around the time of the winter solstice. The novel tells the story of Will Stanton, in many (though not all) ways a typical eleven-year-old boy, who must enter into a quest to defeat the powers of the Dark -- which rises at the turning of the year.
Allusions to Celtic mythology and elements of the Arthurian legend weave their way through the novel, so that makes me happy. I could talk for way too long about the reasons that in many ways the Arthur story can also be read as a Christmas story -- I got an A on that paper in college! But even without knowing much about King Arthur, readers will thrill to the idea that the battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil is a never-ending one -- and can turn on the hinge of a single person's actions.
Worldwide Readathon of the entire The Dark is Rising sequence! How awesome is that?! The organizer figured today was a good day for the event to begin, because Will Stanton is the "seventh son of a seventh son" -- see how December 7 is a fitting day to start the adventure? The thinking is that everyone can read at his or her own pace, and we should all finish up right around December 20 -- Will's eleventh birthday, and Midwinter Eve.
No one has anything else to do this time of year, right?
NOTE: Although it is part of a series, I think this novel can stand on its own quite well without one needing to be familiar with the previous book. You know your kid, so you can decide whether this book is right for your family, but most readers who loved the Harry Potter books will enjoy this as well. If you're not sure, I suggest that you read it to or with your child -- always a great thing, but especially cozy and fun in winter. With tea or cocoa. Or wine. As appropriate.
ANOTHER NOTE: All of these book covers are from the various American and British re-printings of the book; published over forty years ago, the series has never been out of print. Pick the cover that makes you happy -- they are all easily found online.