Overflowing with wit and invention, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is the beguiling tale of a ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery by his brutal master, Mr. Seamus. One fateful afternoon, as he's picking the pockets of townspeople enraptured by a travelling haberdasher, he "discovers" (steals) a box of magical eyes. When he tries on the first pair, he is instantly transported to the island at the top of the world, where he meets the maker of the eyes, Professor Cake. The Professor gives Peter a choice: travel to the mysterious Vanished Kingdom and try to rescue a people in need ... or return back to his master and a life of crime. Peter chooses wisely, and together with Sir Tode, a knight errant who has been turned into a rather unfortunate combination of human, horse and cat by a grumpy witch, he embarks on an unforgettable adventure in a book destined to become a classic.And here's what I have to say about it: (warning!!! I may go on a bit of a rant that may include spoilers - which is OK if you are looking to get it for a child in your life and not so OK if you want to read it yourself)
Character Development 4
As I began this book, the first word that came to my mind was "charming". It is a perfect read-aloud book. The narrator's voice is strong and fun with lots of age-appropriate humour. Although the back of the book says 10+ years, my precocious 8 year old nephew would enjoy it as well.
Poor, blind, Peter is liberated from his miserable life and embarks on a magical, mystical journey full of: problems waiting to be overcome; friends waiting to be made; lessons waiting to be learned and mysteries waiting to be solved. Peter needs a steady companion and who better than Sir Tode? I have to say that Sir Tode was my favorite character in the story. Who could resist a knight who is also a cat/horse/human? He fills a vital role as friend, confidant and Peter's eyes.
Don't expect this to be one of those books that helps kids understand and appreciate what it means to live with blindness. It is easy to forget Peter's blindness as he can 'see' almost better with his other senses as sighted people can with their eyes. This includes the ability, for example, to catch things thrown at him by 'sensing' their presence.
Although this point was a point of contention for me as an adult, I don't think it would hinder a child's enjoyment of the book. I just want to say that I was a little disappointed in the author's lack of imagination in this one area. See if you recognise the story line - Twins, a boy and a girl, are born to royalty in the middle of an uprising. To protect the line, the male twin is spirited away to be raised as an orphan. The boy is raised to rely on his inner eye or other senses to 'see' things (we'll call it, the force shall we?) At some point there is a huge battle between good and evil and the twins are reunited for the fight, although they are unaware of their relationship. As the battle progresses, the twins realize their relationship to each other and overcome the evil forces threatening to destroy their world. Oh did I mention that the bad guy wears a magical metal suit?
OK, maybe there were two issues I had with imagination. The other has to do with an incidental character and I won't spoil that one.
Mr Auxier's imagination and originality show through in other aspects, however. The use of magic eyes was brilliantly incorporated as were the details of the Vanished Kingdom.
Be forewarned that there is a fair amount of violence in the story but (having some experience with 8 - 12 year olds - and boys especially) nothing they won't appreciate; nothing to cause nightmares; and, likely, nothing that comes close to the violence in their favorite video game.
All in all a great first effort by Jonathon Auxier. I'm hopeful we will find more accounts Peter's magical adventures in the future.