I have never read anything by Cornelia Funke before, but I know that Igraine the Brave won't be our last book by her. We read it in just over two weeks, while also reading Magic Schoolbus books alongside.
The Story: Igraine's family is full of magicians, and they live in Pimpernel Castle, and are guardians of the Singing Books of Magic. Igraine has no desire to be a magician. She wants to be a knight. She has just turned 12 years old, and she wants nothing more than a life of chivalry and knightly persuits. She gets her chance to prove herself when her parents have a magical mishap, and she and her (magic practicing) older brother must defend the castle, and the Books, against Osmund the Greedy and his dastardly knight, Rowan the Heartless. Igraine sets of on a quest, and has wonderful adventures with a giant, and an honorable knight, among others.
The Good: How great is it to have kids learning about chivalry? Igraine is a spunky, brave, and smart young girl, who is not afraid to face potentially frightening situations (unless spiders are involved). In this way, she is a very good heroine. The other characters are also very well described, from Igraine's parents, The Fair Melisande and Sir Lamorak the Wiley, to the chivalrous knight who helps her, The Sorrowful Knight of the Mount of Tears, to her clever brother, Albert and his magical mice, to her talking cat, the ever fish-hungry Sisyphus, right to the evil-doers, Osmund the Greedy and Rowan the Heartless.
The chapters are pretty short in general, so it's easily broken down if you are reading it in installments, and though I read this one aloud to Evalina and only had her reading the chapter titles, she was following along quite well. Amazon lists this book as good for ages 9-11, but she had no troubles with the story at 5 (almost 6).
The Bad: Igraine gets herself into trouble sometimes, and doesn't always listen to her parents or other authority figures. She is sometimes rash. Some of the writing may be a bit over the heads of younger kids, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It didn't seem to limit enjoyment.
The Verdict: We loved this book and looked forward to reading it every night. I can't wait to read more by Cornelia Funke! I wish we had the first in the Inkheart series (I inadvertantly bought the second one instead of the first one... oops). I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy, and Harry Potter fans would probably appreciate it. It is lighter than the Potter books, though, in style and story. More fairytale like.
Evalina's "Book Report": I'm going to start having her do this, as an exercise that will help her out in school eventually. I had her draw five of her favorite things in the story. Here they are (and interestingly, she didn't draw Igraine herself! I thought for sure the castle and Igraine would have made appearances)
This is the horse, Lancelot, enjoying a carrot (no idea why the horse has no mane)
The Sorrowful Knight of the Mount of Tears, who lost the ladies he was protecting.
Igraine's cat, Sisyphus, eating a Knight Fish.
Rowan Heartless, the evil Spiky Knight. (Doesn't he just look evil? That grin! Terror-inducing)
The magical stone lions that (happily, apparently) guard the gates of Pimpernel. Evalina was quick to point out their manes, and said they were roaring.