Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Five Ancestors

Lawrence Bender and Karen Barber will produce a two-film adaptation of Jeff Stone's series The Five Ancestors for Nikelodeon. Variety notes that Bender's previous production credits include the following films--"Reservoir Dogs," "Kill Bill," and "Pulp Fiction," among others.

I recently read Stone's The Five Ancestors: Monkey, the second volume in a planned seven. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Pleasantly surprised because I've a life-long distaste for the martial arts and did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did.

The Five Ancestors series follows the lives of five "brothers" (I was also happy to discover that one of the brothers is a girl). The brothers are orphans and the youngest students of the Grandmaster of the Cangzhen Temple in China. Each brother is trained in a different fighting style--tiger, monkey, crane, snake, and dragon--and their training informs their personalities. (Or is it the opposite?) The details of the fighting styles passed me by some, but The Five Ancestors: Monkey is a well written romp of a book. It's full of action and adventure. Stone's characterization is believable and I found myself rooting for Malao, the trouble-making monkey brother.

While The Five Ancestors series is definitely aimed a particular reader (boy, initially reluctant), I would recommend these books to any middle-grade reader with an interest in other cultures, history, and adventure. The Five Ancestors: Monkey, at least, ends unresolved, ensuring continued reading through the series. Highly recommended.

**Check out The Five Ancestors website Random House created for the series. There's a historical overview of the era (17th century), games, and a quiz "to see which animal spirit matches your personality." I'm a dragon.