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What You Need to Know:
• The Flint Heart is an exciting story about those touched by a magic necklace and the impact it has on their lives.
• This book is based on a century-old British tale published by Eden Phillpotts in 1910.
• Katherine Paterson is currently the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
• Some scenes involve fighting, and even killing, but those things are only mentioned in brief, nondescript terms.
• There are some challenging words like quagmire, concatenation and deputation. Keep a dictionary handy!
• Illustrator, John Rocco, created the covers for Rick Riordan’s, Percy Jackson series.
The Flint Heart is a magical necklace that can deliver incredible power to its owner. Dating back thousands of years, it first came into existence when a warrior, Phutt, asked a mystery man, Fum, to make him a charm to harden his heart. Apparently his heart was too soft and he was too well-liked to rule his tribe. Phutt was willing to trade his tribesmen’s adoration for a position as their leader. As soon as he held Fum's charm, or the Flint Heart as it became known, Phutt became a different person. He killed the head of the tribe, ruled his people by fear and left a trail of terror and destruction. When Phutt finally died, Fum buried the Flint Heart and it stayed hidden for many years, until a poor farming family happened upon it, in what is now England. Here we meet 12 year-old Charles and his sister, Unity. Sadly, it is their dad who ends up with the charm, and, as with Phutt, becomes a ruthless tyrant. It is up to Charles and Unity to make things right. With the help of a fairy named De Quincey, a talking hot-water bottle, a King, and a wise man named Zagabog, Charles and Unity devise a plan to save their father from the Flint Heart’s spell. As you can imagine with something as powerful as the Flint Heart, things aren’t resolved that easily. The Flint Heart falls into the wrong hands several more times, there are uprisings by a Jacky Toad and a Badger, battles are fought, both of a frog’s grandmothers are sadly eaten, and Charles and Unity risk their lives in an “icy cold mire.”
While this ancient story is told with a modern-day sense of humor and a casual tone that address the reader directly, some of the more formal language, like “did not disdain to avail himself” or “pray don’t destroy his illusions”, may be challenging to readers. The story is also filled with thought provoking details like the Zagabog’s version of The Tortoise and The Hare, De Quincey’s fondness for the “music of English prose” and an unusual exam to test the Jacky Toad’s knowledge. The following two passages give an indication of the authors’ clever combination of wit and grace.
“You can’t have the music and text of this great performance because of copyrights, etc., but you must believe me that this fine song of the history of the Zagabog was very much admired, and the Zagabog himself liked it as well as anybody.”
“The fox trotted up to explain that the tortoise had still fifty yards to finish, so the hare chatted for a few minutes longer, changed his clothes, put on his running drawers and spiked shoes, kissed his family, asked one or two riddles, played a couple of games of lawn tennis with his daughters, and finally started.”
The intricate illustrations seem made for the big screen, which I hear is a possibility as the movie rights have already been purchased. Given the language, the messages and the awe-inspiring illustrations, The Flint Heart is a perfect book to read aloud and enjoy with your child. You may end up in a conversation about the works of Shakespeare, why it is important to understand different points of view or why some people will go to any lengths to gain power.
Click below and enjoy the book trailer.
Katherine Paterson and John Paterson
2011, 304 pages
Character/Values, Excellent Read-Aloud, Fairies, Fantasy, Magic, Talking Animals, War
• Would you want to wear the Flint Heart? What do you think would happen if you did?
• In what way was the hot-water bottle important to the story?
• Should Marsh Galloper have had a more severe punishment? Was his test a fair one?
• What is the Zagabog’s role in the story?
• Do you know anyone that would want the Flint Heart’s powers? Who and why?
• Would you rather have power or friends? Why?
• Did the hare do the right thing when he let the tortoise win the race? Why or why not?