As is the case for every parent, I want to instill in my children a love for reading. My husband and I are devoted readers and our personal library at home consists of several thousand books which we read throughout our lives. Like all people of our generation, the major entertainment of our childhood was books. While we do not want our children to live our lives, I would still rather at any given moment that they were reading books instead of playing video games or watching brainwashing video content.
Well that is much easier to say that it is to do. My oldest daughter took her love for reading from me, and eats books by volumes. But for her twin brother reading would be last on his list. While I can be very persuasive and force him to read, on the other side I realize that forcing will not instill his love of the page, so I need to be more creative with my methods.
With that in mind I searched the internet for what would be good fencing books for children, hoping that the theme and the topic would spark my son’s interest. My childhood favorite, Dumas’s The Three Musketeers would not make the cut – you cannot force a child (that is not really fond of reading just yet) to read a 500 hundred page 19th century novel (it’s not even easy for little hands to carry!) I needed to be more realistic about the goals and find books suitable for a 4th grader.
Preparing to take off onto our weeklong family vacation I looked for some books that had fencing as their subject. Four sounded promising at first, but one didn’t make the cut after further investigation and so I ordered the other three from Amazon, with them arriving just before we took off. Armed with great (or so I thought) fencing books we were away.
Here’s the list of 4 books I found: The Tale of Despereaux, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Foiled, and The Calypso Chronicles. When checking out our reviews you’ll see first a quick synopsis of the book, and then a triple review: mine, my reader daughter, and my so-fencer and so-not-reader son.
You’ll find that we didn’t really review The Calypso Chronicles, but the synopsis and our reasoning is listed. Of the remaining three, my order (from my top pick to my bottom pick) is this:
- The Tale of Despereaux
- The Spiderwick Chronicles
- and the very last is Foiled.
Level: Grades 6 & up
Type: Series of 3 novels
The first two books in the series (which are fun and great according to readers) mostly revolve around typical teenage angst, with book 3 really focusing on fencing. In book 3, the main character Calypso is getting ready for fencing nationals and working to fulfill her hopes of becoming an Olympic fencer. These books are written especially for teen girls who love fencing, and are penned by Tyne O’Connell, a bestselling British author. It seems like most reviewers agree that the books are funny and well written, but do keep in mind that they’re really geared for a teenage audience so make sure you preview a bit if your child is in middle school. Nonetheless it’s nice to see books that are about high level fencing competition and balancing life!
Reading the reviews of The Calypso Chronicles and the bio of their author Tyne O’Connell, I realized that most likely this series is
- for girls
- for high schoolers
This series does focus heavily on fencing according to its description, with the main character preparing for fencing nationals with the hopes of joining the Olympics as a fencer. However for the reasons listed above, The Calypso Chronicles did not make the final list as our kids are little too young for them. A few more years, maybe, but not just yet.
Level: 7th grade and up
Type: Graphic Novel
This graphic novel is about a girl who finds a jeweled foil at a garage sale, leading to some amazingly magical adventures. Aliera (the main character) is a fencing prodigy, but she struggles to fit in at school. She’s tough and fun, dedicated to her fencing art and listens well to her coach’s advice – “You must always protect your heart.” This graphic novel was followed up with at sequel Foiled Again.
(For those who might not know – a graphic novel is a comic book that’s in book form, and they’re VERY popular with young readers and are often found in school libraries.)
I put Foiled last because for me the graphic novel (comic book) format means that it is not really a book in my opinion, sorry. Maybe I am too outdated in my preferences, or maybe I never really read comics before, and I admit that while it was entertaining and the story was interesting, this format is just not for me. I would save few trees. On the other hand, my son literally devoured this book. The target readers for this book are teenagers, and I agree with that, and maybe because of that and because of the fencing (which is a major thing in this book), my son enjoyed it. My daughter, however, did not give me any high marks. Well, as I wrote she is a serious reader. Does that tell you anything about comics, by the way? 🙂
Level: Grade 2 & up
Type: Series of 8 novels
The Spiderwick Chronicles follow the fantastical adventures of twins Simon and Jared with their older sister Mallory. After moving into the house on the ancient Spiderwick Estate, the three find themselves getting lost on a tremendous adventure full of trolls and magic. Mallory is a fencing champion, and in fact the fourth book, The Ironwood Tree, opens at a fencing competition. The children use their foils to fight actual bad guys in this beautifully written classic children’s series.
The Spiderwick Chronicles is a fantasy novel, and apparently there is a movie based on the series, which we’ve added to our queue on Netflix. There is real, modern world fencing in these books since one of the main characters in the series, a girl named Mallory, is a competitive fencer dreaming of the Olympic Games. While fencing is not the central theme of the series, it is a skill that proves useful in children’s adventures, and there is a lot of description of the fencing during those scenes, so for my son these were adventure books filled with fencing. He loved it a lot and actually read every one of them! My daughter was thrilled with the adventure, and she swallowed the books whole, turning pages much faster than I do and refusing to do anything else until the last page.
So while it is my second choice among the three, it is my daughter’s first and son’s second.
Level: 3rd grade and up
This is the tale of a mouse who saves his kingdom and conquers his foes through skilled swordsmanship and a sharp wit, despite the naysayers. He manages to affect not only his little world but the human world as well. Despereaux uses weapons that are sized for him – needles and thumbtacks. This book is well known for its heart – a tale of bravery and self belief overcoming the will of those who would keep you from your dreams.
And the last one on the list (my TOP pick) is Despereaux. For me this is by far the best book among these three. Fencing? Well apparently there is no real fencing there, so this was a bit disappointment. There is a hint that there will be fencing and the needle plays the role of the sword, but this ‘sword’ never actually gets any real use and was mostly treated as a sword to be fought with and to threaten with, and yet there was no real sword fighting in the book (so sorry guys – not here.) But I loved the story and the humor and the language of the book. For me this was a classical children’s book, a book I could not put down and I enjoyed every page of it. My daughter’s second choice as well – she loved it and read it fast. And for the son – it has yet to make the list as he is mentally preparing himself to read it.
Do you know of good fencing books for kids? Please comment below – I am still in search of magic formula.