“If the pages that follow are inspiring, enlightening, or life changing, I take full responsibility, but if there are any errors it is not my fault.” – Prologue from The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic
“There is a very good possibility that you will not believe a word I say.” Excellent opening words for a family read aloud and a book review alike. I don’t know about you, but such an opening, clues me into the sense that I am about to go on a wild adventure.
Every once in awhile a book comes along that is truly special. Not only is it worthy, but there is something about it that just resonates with your family in a way that is irrefutable. Selecting books for family read aloud is tricky business. Books supply our vernacular. Books become our shared memories. Books become the things that we do together because they are worth doing. Finding read aloud books that enhance family culture can be daunting. Finding books that delight while they teach, sometimes feels, practically impossible.
“In the best works of art, you can’t always figure out the meaning immediately. Sometimes your heart knows first, even while your mind is still lost.”
I cannot lie. We have become read aloud snobs in our house. We have feasted on CS Lewis, Edith Nesbit, George MacDonald, Beverly Cleary, Noel Streatfeild, Ralph Moody and so many other greats. We are spoiled with excellent stories, such that when we meet new books, we approach them with some measured suspicion. Bravo to Jennifer Trafton. She did not allow us even a moment’s hesitation, before we fell in love.
In all honesty, the cover of the book is perfect. Ignore the advice to not judge a book by its cover. In this case, the cover has captured the essence of this little tale with affection and understanding. Mount Majestic is a hero tale, with lovable but unlikely heroes. It is whimsical, but more serious than it initially seems. It has a romantic setting and draws from a deep well of fairy tale lore.
Trafton, clearly, is a teacher. Her writing is very elegant and inspires a love for beautiful language. She uses litanies of powerful words but cleverly defines them through character conversation or additional detailing. Some of primary characters are children and Trafton uses their questions, insecurities, and child-like biases, to invite young readers into the substance of the story.
Charming. Delightful. Dreamy. Darling. Dulcet. Enchanting. Delicious. This book begs to be, no, insists upon being, read aloud. Almost musical. Often poetic. Sometimes dramatic. The sentences roll off of the tongue and the reader just knows what Trafton intends as they are reading aloud. The story unfolds faster than the words can convey and so the mind and heart are well prepared to dance along with the writing.
“The King has never in his life seen such an expression, or worn one either. It was the look of gratitude. But though he had no name for it, he liked it.”
At no point does the story lag or take a wrong turn. In fact, it builds beautifully. Just as Persimmony, more than once, walks in an ever widening circle around somewhere she knows, the readers enjoy walking with Trafton in that same kind of spiral. The chapters alternate between characters, sometimes overlapping, always growing in detail and always consistent with the story arc and the reader’s journey. And, much to the chagrin of my little people, nearly every chapter ends in a cliffhanger. Towards the end, we had to read 2 or 3 chapters per night because of the agitation of my invested readers who simply had to know what happened to their favorites characters.
The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic is more than a great story. It is also a deeply moral one. I think that it will take several readings to unpack some of the beautiful notions that we entertained while reading. There are several spiritual or moral currents that run through this story. The obvious, and some which go deeper. I am very grateful for the texture in this tale. It gave all of us something to work out in the back of our minds while we read.
I wish that this one was available in audio! This summer, at this site, we are planning to organize a letter writing campaign to petition Puffin to order a spoken version of this story.