What set me off yesterday?
I’m going to review a couple of books in that “Spirit Animals” series, as part of my duties for the Chalcedon Foundation ministry. (We’re celebrating our 50th anniversary this year; visit our website, http://www.chalcedon.edu ). For this series, Scholastic Books rounded up several established fantasy writers, a different writer for each book, all telling the same story. I’ve just finished reading Book #1, Wild Born by Brandon Mull.
Earlier work by these authors has somehow landed on the New York Times best-seller list, so it couldn’t have been cheap to round them up for Scholastic. It seems an odd procedure: Scholastic has the muscle to see to it that a book sells successfully, no matter who the author is.
But I am convinced Scholastic has paid these authors well and told them what to write. And I don’t like what they’re writing.
Let me describe what I’ve read, as simply as I can: unoriginal, formulaic, cringe-inducing prose, Politically Correct, chock-full of cliches, and–most importantly–delivering a thoroughly pagan, New Age message of “spirituality” devoid of a personal God or any kind of moral law handed down by Him.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the authors sugar-coat it by focusing on children whose spiritual bonds with spirit animals give them super-powers–I hate super-powers–that enable them to whup the tar out of any able-bodied adult male. This is pitched to the sense of powerlessness that torments many teens and pre-teens, seducing them with ridiculous visions of radical autonomy. Being able to beat up a grown man, when you’re only 11 years old and weigh 70 pounds, is radical autonomy.
Scholastic’s last big push was for Philip Pullman’s atheist rant trilogy, His Dark Materials. Once parents became aware of what that was about, the book sales slowed to a trickle and the feature film went belly-up.
Having failed to catch the flies with vinegar, Scholastic is now trying to catch them with honey. Where Pullman spat venom, Spirit Animals seduces: playing on most children’s love of animals, making the animals into a kind of God substitute, and so on.
I object strenuously to this abuse of fantasy. It is being used to sugar-coat poisonous ideas. I object to there being so much of this kind of fantasy.
We have to do better than this. We just have to do better.