I was driving home the other day when I heard author and librarian Nancy Pearl on a KUOW-FM program. Pearl was, until August 2004, the Executive Director of the Washington Center for the Book at Seattle Public Library. She’s frequently heard on NPR’s Morning Edition sharing her love and knowledge of books. During the KUOW program, Pearl took questions from callers who asked, as they often do, her for reading recommendations. One caller, in particular, sought ideas for his 14-year-old daughter. His daughter, he explained, liked science fantasy and was especially fond of a series of books–the title of which I didn’t catch–that was set in present day and in places that she could actually visit.
Pearl was stymied for a moment, “there are just so many” young adult science fantasy choices, she explained. After mentioning a few titles, she suggested the caller check with his local librarian for other titles.
Had I been able to phone in, I would have to her and the caller, a series of books by author Michael Scott: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicolas Flamel. Scott is a distinguished Irish author who’s also a scholar of Celtic mythology and folklore.
The six books in his series are steeped in history and mythology as the reader follows the adventures of 15-year-old twins, Sophie and Josh Newman. The two become engaged in a series of adventures when Josh’s employer, a bookseller, reveals to them that he is really Nicholas Flamel, the legendary 14th century French alchemist. He discloses to them that he is also immortal and needs to recover an ancient book, known as the Codex,or else he and his wife, Pernelle, will die within a month. That unleashes one obstacle after another that takes them crisscrossing the globe featuring to well-known places and sites, including San Francisco, London, the Eiffel Tower, Stonehenge and the Golden Gate Bridge.
As Scott says: “Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel were real people. So was Dr. John Dee. Indeed, all the characters in The Alchemyst, with the exception of the twins, are based on real historical characters or mythological beings.
“When I originally conceived the idea for The Alchemyst, I thought the hero would be Dr. John Dee,” Scott explains. “John Dee has always fascinated me. In the Elizabethan Age, the age of the extraordinary, he was exceptional. He was one of the most brilliant men of his time, and all the details about his life in The Alchemyst are true: he was an alchemist, a mathematician, a geographer, an astronomer and an astrologer.”
Scott decided a six book series with these three as main characters would allow him to introduce many figures from history and mythology. In the six books, readers are introduced to characters from Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Norse and Celtic mythologies and historical characters from the Elizabethan, Renaissance, Egyptian andGilded era.
Each of the first four titles of Scott’s series were featured in the top ten of the New York Times Best Seller Children’s Books. The final and sixth book of the series was just published last spring. Any of the books would be a great holiday gift for your younger readers.