So my friend Taylor Brown wrote a book. For his kid. AND IT’S AWESOME.
I actually was late for work one day because I was at the end and cool stuff was happening and consarnit, I was going to figure out what happened NOW, not later. I was that engrossed.
Okay, guess I should back this story up. Context and what not.
Taylor has a son, Everett, who at the time of this writing is about say…2 years old? Taylor had an awesome and original idea to come up with bedtime stories that he could tell his son, featuring his son as the hero in the story. Eventually, this morphed into several stories, which Taylor tied together in one world in his book Rootless. And it’s awesome. Did I mention it’s awesome?
What I found really funny was that the story progresses like an RPG game, a genre that Taylor is pretty into. In fact, I mentioned this to him after having read it: “Hey, I noticed you wrote this story the way you like to be told stories, in game form. Was that on purpose?” Apparently, it was not, but I still find it funny.
Everett, the protagonist, goes on ever grander adventures, adding to his posse of awesome friends / allies and picking up enemies along the way, just like an RPG game. He doesn’t level up, like a game would, but the relative strength of his friend group does, as each new person adds something cool and unique to the group.
Also, like most children’s stories, there is an overarching theme for the book. I think I can safely describe it without giving up the plot – that even when things see like they’re going super uber wrong, making the best of the situation is way better than giving up.
Okay, well, that’s about all I can say without delving into spoilers, so here we go!
It’s like a children’s book, but for adults
In some ways, it’s funny that Taylor wrote this book for his 2 year old son, Everett, because this book’s writing style is waaaay above the reading comprehension level of a 2 year old. Everett is going to have to at least be in middle school before he can sit down and read this book without Taylor and Margaret’s help. But that’s okay, because you and I are past middle school and we presmably have reading comprehension skills >= middle school, so yay?
This does, however, allow Taylor to describe the world really well, and he takes the opportunity to do just that. This isn’t GRRM level of descriptive storytelling, but I’m not a big fan of that much time spent describing things (vs action) anyway.
One big problem a lot of new authors have is “talking head syndrome”, where in the author’s mind, everything is vivid and makes sense, but all the reader sees is conversation between characters. Taylor does a great job avoiding this, even going so far as to have included pictures and maps of the world that our fun protagonists live in.
I could easily picture Brixit and Rrwin and Everett and Therese and Agnes (our merry band of heroes) as they went along their journey. Even the antagonists, the power hungry mages were fleshed out well, certainly well enough for a children’s book.
Being a book aimed at children, having the antagonists be antagonists “just because” is an easy crutch to fall onto. But Taylor even gives them real motivations for what they do. They’re not “ethically grey”, since that would be too complicated for a straight up children’s book, but you can understand their desire for vengeance on our merry band of heroes, not only for making fools of them once after they healed Rrwin, but again when they almost die at the hands of our merry band of heroes once Everett manages to avenge everyone at the Mages’ lair. I can say I’d be mad haha. Yeah, I might try murdering our protagnosts in that spot as well.
Dealing with disappointment
Rrwin and Therese both end up having to deal with crushing disappointment in the story. Rrwin because he thought he could be healed by the monks at the monastery, and Therese, having run away from everything she knew to join the monastery, but being turned away.
In a coincidental twist of fate, just while Rrwin and Therese were at the point in their lives where they were like “This sucks. Everything sucks. I hate everything.”, so was I. So watching them deal with disappointment helped me through mine as well. Good job on making relatable characters, Taylor.
The major theme of the book was basically “everything happens for a reason, even if you don’t immediately understand it”, and the stories of Rrwin and Therese both helped to illustrate that. Both of them become immediately sullen and gloomy afterwards, much like I was in real life, and and lean on their friends to help get them out of it. That was a nice sentiment, and a good takeaway for the book’s intended audience, children.
So my friend Taylor is a pretty religious person, and so it didn’t surprise me at all that religion was part of his book. That theme I mentioned earlier? Technically, I should probably write it as “God has a plan, even if you can’t see it.” rather than “Everything happens for a reason.”
Not being particularly religious myself, I thought Taylor weaved things in pretty well in his book, not being overly heavy handed with it. In fact, one of the strongest moments in the book is probably when the characters realize that when Everett says God, he probably doesn’t mean the same one that Rrwin is talking about, or Brixit is talking about, or anyone else is talking about. I like that the book directly addresses religious tolerance by putting the characters in a position where children might be put later: when they realize that their friends may not necessarily have the same idea of religion as they do.
When I talked with Taylor, he mentioned his editor had questioned him about that specific moment, and Taylor wasn’t sure whether to leave it in. I’m glad he did.
I have definitely paid much more money for books written much less well than Rootless.
To be frank, I did not have high expectations originally for this book. Your friend asks you to read a book he made for his 2 year old son, right? You say yes, because he’s your friend, but you’re like “ehhhh, what did I get myself into?” when the book arrives and it’s a couple hundred pages.
But not only did I find myself liking it, I found myself engrossed in the world that Taylor created. I’m glad I took the time to read it, and I’m even more glad that Taylor took the time to write it and get it published. Apparently, it took more than a year, and for that kind of commitment to conclude in this kind of success is pretty fantastic.
Kudos to you, Taylor. I know that when Everett reads this, he’ll love it too.