What if the reality you saw did not match what you knew was true? What if no
one else could see the truth but was blinded by an illusion of reality? What
if it was up to you to find a way to bring everything back into focus? To attempt
to answer these questions in an engaging manner in a children's fantasy novel
is a tall order for any author. To use a fantasy story to teach Biblical truth
is an even greater challenge. In some books, the reader is either bashed over
the head with the obvious or he closes the book and wonders what in the world
is going on!
Sharon Popejoy has met this challenge in Speak No Evil, a 173-page novel for ages nine and up. She nicely balances fantasy with allegory in this well-written story of the four Livingstone children--Rachael, Luke, Logan, and Dori--and what they encounter during their family's extended stay at Rhemawood castle. As a breath of fresh air, the Livingstone children are nice kids who don't have "issues." They actually like each other and get along, and they seem happy to share in family adventures. Their parents grant them permission to explore the rambling old castle to their hearts' content. And explore it they do!
They discover a beautiful young woman in one of the towers and look forward to getting to know her. However, the very next day, the woman disappears and the tower is in shambles. In her place the children discover (to their dismay) an old, crabby, blind woman barely surviving in a heap of ruin. What has happened? Their only clue is Miss Bottie, their new caregiver, who fixes their breakfast and has nothing but negative things to say about pretty much everything. Can words really have an effect on reality? Does speaking evil work destruction in the real world? Can an illusion be perceived as reality and reality considered as an illusion? The children are determined to solve this mystery and find a way to restore the lady and the tower to their former glory.
Shari Popejoy weaves an engaging story, sprinkled with allegorical statements that make me pause and consider. When the children experiment with light and prisms to try and see the tower as it was before, Rachael suddenly exclaims, "It's there. It's there! Just like the first day. It's real, but not the real we see with our eyes. It's a different real--another dimension or something." I am reminded how the spiritual realm is just as real as the physical realm we now occupy. There are light waves our eyes cannot see now, but someday the "other" reality will be revealed.
I am not a fan of fantasy, but Speak No Evil reads more like a delightful, modern-day fairy tale, told in an old-fashioned "voice" that is fun to read. It would make a great read-aloud, as there are plenty of opportunities for discussing spiritual truths. My only suggestion is that I would like to see some thought-provoking discussion questions to go along with the book. Perhaps the author could make these available on her website at a later date.
In the meantime, enjoy the story! I certainly did.