J. R. R. Tolkien

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More About This Book

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"Ronald led an ordinary life," writes Alexandra Wallner toward the end of this informative but often tedious account of author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien's life. It's a bit late for readers, who will already have meandered through rote descriptions of places Tolkien lived growing up, his schooling, romance, eventual marriage, and finally the creation of the stories that have endeared him to millions. John Wallner brings some life to the proceedings, using a game board as a metaphor for Tolkien's life (complete with "lose a turn" spaces and appearances by elves, dragons, wizards, and hobbits), but it's unlikely to be enough to hold readers' interest. Ages 6–10. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Joining the slim ranks of juvenile biographies about Tolkien, this picture book traces the writer's life from his childhood to old age, highlighting moments that inspired his books. The author presents him as a man with an extraordinary imagination who led a fairly ordinary life. His love of languages and codes is noted, with small coded messages embedded in the illustrations. Tolkien's early life was filled with loss, including the deaths of both parents and fighting in the trenches of World War I. These difficult times are acknowledged at a level appropriate for the audience. The dramatic events of his childhood allow for a fairly lively text; a time line provides dates and makes the book suitable for simple reports and pleasure reading. Soft illustrations in watercolor and colored pencil organize Tolkien's life as a path along a game board, with spaces like "To England. Move Forward 1 Space." While this format allows the artist to work in additional details, the concept does not relate to the text or Tolkien's work, and feels arbitrary. Occasionally the illustrations show events out of sequence or do not reflect the narrative, but for the most part they add visual interest and enrich the story with references to the writer's books, such as golden rings, elves, and Bilbo Baggins's home. Libraries with high demand for juvenile biographies will want to add this to their collections.—Suzanne Myers Harold, Multnomah County Library System, Portland, OR
Kirkus Reviews

A quick life of the great fantasist is given wings by allusive painted illustrations.

Aimed at children who knowThe Hobbitbut aren't quite up to tackling it on their own, the narrative takes "Ronald" from birth in South Africa through transplantation to England, experiences in World War I and postwar life up to the publication ofLord of the Rings.The selection of detail isn't particularly discriminating. Intriguing information such as the famous anecdote about how the first line ofThe Hobbitpopped into his head out of nowhere or notes about Gandalf's origin and a relative's farm called "Bag's End" is interspersed with eye-glazing references to childhood changes of address or the formation of the Tolkien Society. The art provides a more studied route into the author's imagination and achievements. Prettily rendered in soft lines and muted colors, it's framed as a winding board game decorated with thematic words, depictions of elves and dragons, views of the author and his family at various ages, simple codes and highlighted scenes, all capped by facing portraits of Tolkien ("I am in fact a hobbit in all but size") and Bilbo Baggins.

Beguiling art props up a profile that reads like a school report. (timeline, bibliography, notes)(Picture book/biography. 7-9)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823419517
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/12/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 6 - 10 Years
  • Lexile: AD760L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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