Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Candle Man: The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance

By Glen Dakin
Ages 10-13

Theo has met exactly three people in his short teenage life: Dr. Saint, his guardian; Mr. Nicely, his butler; and Clarice, his deaf-mute maid. Theo is made to study Good Manners and children’s fairytales, and is not allowed to learn about the real world—for those things “would only excite and confuse [Theo’s] mind” (Pg. 16). Theo has been told by his guardian that he has a “special condition” and his isolation is important for his well being and the safety of others—an apparently necessary, but uninteresting life.

One night a pair of burglars breaks into the house. They snatch Theo from his room and demand that he lead them to any valuables. Theo is not wearing the protective gloves his guardians require: When Theo grabs one of his attackers in self-defense, the man melts into a puddle of goo.

From this moment forward, Theo is launched into an adventure beyond what he could have ever imagined. His world rapidly expands: garghouls, and smoglodytes, ghosts and a villain who collects extinct animals, an evil society inappropriately named “The Society of Good Works”, and a scrappy young girl with an enormous measure of overconfidence. And when Theo learns what Dr. Saint has planned for the city of London, he must make a choice about what role he is to play in this new life: Victim, pawn, or hero?

With breathtaking suspense and fast-paced action, this steampunk tale is a page-turner from beginning to end. Because of Theo’s miserable circumstances, the darkness of the action, and the irony of the mock kindness of the villains, this book is a perfect follow-up for fans of A Series of Unfortunate Events who are ready for the next step in fiction. Theo’s journey from isolated, frightened, well-mannered boy to brave hero willing to die for his friends is a compelling story that will leave readers ready for the next book in the Candle Man series.

Caveats: Gruesome violence, some frightening elements.

Some topics for discussion: Extinct animals, what makes a person a villain, how to make good choices, how to be brave, good vs. evil.

Some questions to get you started:

    1. The members of The Society of Good Works have names such as Saint, Nicely, Dove, and Patience. Why do you think they’ve chosen this name for their society and these specific monikers? Is it out of an attempt to deceive? Or do you think they believe they are doing good?

    2. As with The Society of Good works, many things in this book are not as they seem. How is the Dodo a surprising character? What do you think of the request the Dodo makes of Theo in the end? Is he a villain or a hero? Also, there are several opinions about the nature of Theo’s ancestor. If the Candle Man is responsible for the Eighty-eight, does that make him a villain or a hero?

    3. Is there anything symbolic about the zoo of endangered animals that the Dodo keeps? What do they represent for the society? For the Dodo himself?

    4. Theo makes a transformation in a short amount of time from a boy who is sheltered and isolated to a boy who is over stimulated and longs from the simplicity of home, to a boy who is up for an adventure but insists on literalism and truth-telling, to a brave hero willing to step out on his own. Is this a realistic transformation? Why or why not?

If you liked this book you might enjoy: The Black Book of Secrets by F.E. Higgins, Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy, Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud.

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