Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
When I was a child, my Sister and I used to read 'The Dark is Rising' novel every Christmas without fail. This was a magical light vs dark adventure set at Christmas time and I can pinpoint where my love for Christmas books truly began. Over Sea, Under Stone is the first novel that kicks off the whole Dark is Rising sequence and is no less magical. It has smatterings of Swallows and Amazons or the Famous Five novels mixed with Arthurian legend and is a wonderful start to the series.
3 children; Simon, Jane and Barney spend the summer in Cornwall with their Great-Uncle Merry and discover a mysterious treasure map. Set in the wild Cornish landscape, there is lots of clue solving, picnics and adventure simultaneously taking place as the battle between the Light and the Dark rages on.
The novel is steeped in Arthurian legend, which adds a somewhat magical quality to the book. The children are engaging and Great Uncle Merry serves as a signpost for the Light and guides the children through their adventure. We learn the Dark takes many forms; people, animals and wildlife.Best of all are the descriptions of Cornwall - wild, mysterious and with a presence of power and energy built into every rock and monument.
For me this is a wonderful children's read. It is everything you want from a summer adventure and is a terrific start to the Dark is Rising sequence which keeps on getting better the more you read. Susan Cooper has also infused a sense of adultness in the novels. The children play the key parts in the search for the treasure as much as their Uncle. They are intelligent, never annoying and certainly not patronised in any way.
I love Susan Cooper's writing, especially the mysticism that is infused into every word. The books are a perfect series for child aged 8-11, especially if they are off for a holiday. I hope they enjoy them as much as I do.