Friday, November 7, 2008

Book Review: The Shamer's Daughter, by Lene Kaaberbol

     Strictly speaking, it wasn't really Cilla's fault that I was bitten by a dragon. It was probably sheer coincidence that she decided to throw a bucket of whey in my face on the very day the man from Dunark came. But every time my arm hurts...every time I miss Cherry Tree Cottage and the pear trees and the chickens we had...I get mad at Cilla all over again.

Ten-year-old Dina Tonerre has very special eyes, but no one wants to meet them. Even her own friends gradually stop looking directly at her, and don't play with her anymore. She inherited those eyes from her mother, The Shamer. A Shamer is a person with the gift of reading a person's soul, of being able to see everything a person is ashamed of. But as Dina soon learns, it is a gift that is both blessing and curse, and she's not at all sure she wants it. 

Her mother is sentenced to be fed to the dragons because she won't condemn a boy accused of murder - a crime that, after looking into his eyes, she is adamant that he did not commit. Dina is tricked into joining her mother at the castle where she is being held, by the very man who has decided her mother's fate. But when she meets the accused boy, she sees what her mother did - that he is innocent. 

With the help of unlikely allies, Dina embarks on a perilous journey to discover the true killer, and to save her mother and the boy. Along the way, she learns about trust and friendship, and finds the courage to accept who she is.  

For Teachers and Librarians:
The Shamer's Daughter is a dark fantasy with heroic proportions. There are fantastic themes here of good vs. evil, self-acceptance, trust, courage, ethics, and seeking identity. From the mystery angle, have your students keep notebooks and fill them with clues Dina discovers, as well as any other tidbits they feel are important to finding the real killer. Let them discuss the feelings Dina struggles with as she comes to grips with inheriting the Shamer's eyes. Have them chart the good things Dina discovers she can do, as well as the more unpleasant aspects of her gift. 

You could also go with the political angle. Who stands to gain from the murders committed? Why? Or, have your students explore the friendship/trust theme: Dina misses having a true friend, and laments that her Shamer's eyes have scared them all away. What does her mother tell her about this? What do your students think she means by that? When does Dina discover the truth of her mother's words? When is she confused by them? 

Go with the fantasy angle, and delve into dragons - where do they appear in history? How have they been described in literature? Are they based partly in fact? So many ways to use this book...which will you choose?

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
The Shamer's Daughter is most appropriate for your older kiddos - probably age 9 and up. It is a gripping story, part mystery, part self-discovery, part fantasy, and they won't be able to tear themselves away. (And neither will you - you should read it, too!) It offers valuable lessons in self-acceptance, trust, and courage, but it's not at all preachy. It comes across in a totally organic way, and is seamlessly woven into the plot. Be available as they read, to explain things they may not understand, and to discuss words they may not have heard before.

For the Kids:
The Shamer's Daughter has lots to like: dragons, castles, mystery, a girl with strange and powerful gift, action, adventure, and did I mention dragons? You will not be able to put this one down. And guess what? The author has written three more books in this series! Try it - and see what you think.

For Everyone Else:
Though The Shamer's Daughter is a novel for the youngish set, adults will be completely drawn into this fantasy. Full of action, adventure, political intrigue, dragons, and no small amount of soul-searching, it is a book that will grab your attention and never let go. And the great thing is, once you finish, there are three more books in the series, so you can continue the adventures just a little longer. 

Wrapping Up:
The Shamer's Daughter has something for everyone, no matter what your age. So go find it, and get reading!

Title: The Shamer's Daughter
Author: Lene Kaaberbol
Pages: 235
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Publisher and Date: Henry Holt and Co., 2004
Edition: First American Edition
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $16.95
ISBN-10: 0802075410
ISBN-13: 978-0805075410


  1. Lene Kaaberbol is a wonderful author. Have you read 'The cruel empress'. Its thrilling!

  2. I haven't read The Cruel Empress. This is the first book by Kaaberbol that I've read - but I definitely want to check out her other titles.


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