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J.R.R. Tolkien for Kids: His Life and Writings, with 21 Activities Review by Sarah RothSimonetta Carr
Chicago Review Press
Journeying to Middle Earth through The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings brings adventure, friendship, and stories of good triumphing over evil to the readers of these Tolkien classics. But who was J.R.R. Tolkien? What shaped his writing, and where did the ideas for Middle Earth, with its many people and languages, come from? These are some of the questions that Simonetta Carr answers in J.R.R. Tolkien for Kids: His Life and Writings, with 21 Activities.
As a Tolkien fan and a mother of Tolkien fans, I was excited to review the paperback version of this book, which has a list price of $16.99. It is also available for Kindle and NOOK Book. This 144-page book contains eight engaging chapters covering Tolkien's life from birth to death, focusing on places, people, and events that shaped him and his writing. It also covers many interesting facts and circumstances that specifically inspired the writing of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and some of his other works. This book provides information that Tolkien fans will enjoy, and it also serves as a great introduction to Tolkien and his works for future fans.
Accompanied by black and white images of people and places of significance to Tolkien's life, the book begins with details about Tolkien's birth and early years in South Africa, the move to England, and his parents' deaths. Next, Carr gives us a window into young Ronald's years as an orphan, including details about people who had a significant influence on him. His college years, his friends in T.C.B.S., his time in World War I, his wife and children, his Catholic faith, his time at Oxford, his friendship with C. S. Lewis and the Inklings all had a significant impact on Tolkien and his writing. Carr does an excellent job connecting events and people in Tolkien's life with how they influenced his writing.
Along with the biography of Tolkien, twenty-one activities are included throughout the book. The activities will appeal primarily to ages nine and up, but some will appeal to even younger children. Here is a list of the activities:
- A challenge to see how many words can be written in a circle the size of a penny
- Elegant handwriting
- Write a rebus story
- Write a "what if" story, imagining if an event in history had turned out differently
- Rewrite an old tale
- Pretend you are Father Christmas, and write a letter from him
- Write a book review
- Draw a map for a story that you have read or written
Games and crafts:
- Make a shadow puppet dragon
- Make a kite
- Invent a code
- Press flowers
- Paint an enchanted forest
- Make a Necklace of Girion
- Make marmalade
- Make bread pudding
- Make mushroom toast
Just for fun:
- Listen to Tolkien recite Pippin's bath song, then write your own song
- Learn how to make a blade of grass whistle
- Make hero names for friends and magical names for places and objects
- Grow a little green bean garden
The author includes a brief introduction at the top of each activity, showing how the activity is relevant to the events and time. There are also boxes throughout the book containing additional historical information or further insight into specific areas of Tolkien's writing. A timeline and a glossary of terms are also included in this book.
This book would be a fantastic addition to studies on literature, influential people in history, twentieth-century history, or as a companion to read along with The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It would also be a beneficial source for students researching Tolkien, his writings, and the worlds and languages he created. It is recommended for ages 9-12, but it will appeal to an even more comprehensive age range, including adults.
In our homeschool, we read this book aloud together. As writers and Tolkien fans, my teens enjoyed the opportunity to discuss how certain events in Tolkien's life influenced particular scenes in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. We also enjoyed reading about how the stories became published. For my 7 and 10-year-olds, this book introduced Tolkien and the stories they heard their older siblings talk about. Along with reading the book, we also tried some activities, which were fun to do or share together.
For those who have not yet read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, please be aware book includes spoilers, including notable events and endings, in chapter 6 on pp. 68-69 and chapter 7 on pp. 85-87. Unfortunately, some of my children have not yet read or completed these books, so I chose to skip these small sections as we read together to save the thrill of discovery for when they read the stories for themselves.
There were a few minor typos and editing errors, including the misspelling of Edith's maiden name in chapter 4. However, the errors were minor, and a budding writer or editor may enjoy looking for them.
Overall, this was a fantastic book for the whole family. It is full of history, the trials, and joys in Tolkien's life, writing inspiration, and Middle Earth.
- Product review by Sarah Roth, The Old Schoolhouse® December 2021