Is anyone else ready for a trip? As concerns over COVID-19 continue to put normal activities on hold, families are spending more time in the house than usual this season. If you cannot retreat to your usual summer haunts, perhaps your family might find some meaningful escape with a literary friend who finds himself on an unexpected journey.
Be: the Journey of Rol by Ric Colegrove is a story about a young man who must set out on a journey to find his home, after an accident leaves him bereft of his uncle and teacher. An unlikely and fun-loving youth who has always wondered at his master’s cryptic lessons, he must now depend upon his own resources as he returns to his family’s home. But, after years under the tutelage of his Uncle DaTerrin, he doesn’t quite know where that is.
Rol’s journey is full of adventure, but hardly lonely. As he follows a vague and worrisome map with little more than a pack full of crackers and a length of rope, he meets a couple of companions and a whole host of colorful characters along the way. He makes challenging decisions and meets with danger, but he remains so calm and kind that his new friends wonder at his strength.
As Rol and his fellows reach what he hopes is their destination, he discovers something he had not foreseen. Reflecting upon his completed trek, he realizes another marvel: that he did not merely survive it, but met every day with prayer and every challenge with grace. He had learned his uncle’s most important lesson. He had learned to be who he was made to be.
Written in a humorous and quirky style, Be is a coming-of-age novel that won’t strip children of their innocence. Free of the aggressive attitudes that sometimes plague this genre, Be sends a message of hope, resilience, and everyday holiness in the journey of life.
The setting for the story as a fantasy works well for Rol’s development, and for the reader’s too. As Rol sets out on foot with staff in hand, his surroundings are almost recognizable as something historic, perhaps medieval. But the threat of grumblegoblins and the lure of rainfruit remind us that Rol is not in our world. This perspective loosens our expectations, and the reader can walk alongside the winsome hero with an open heart.
Yet this tale isn’t so fantastic as to be frightening to young readers; there is a familiarity about Rol’s surroundings that resonates with our own desire for family, friendship, and home. Likewise, the lessons he learns are rooted in goodness, but not so overtly didactic as to be clumsy. The message is firmly but tastefully embedded in the story to guide young bookworms in longing for what is good.
Preteen readers who are learning to make sense of life will enjoy the thrill of adventure and the playful banter in Be: the Journey of Rol, while parents will appreciate the wholesome content. Younger siblings will be giggling at the amusing descriptions, making this a sound option for reading aloud as a family.