best book ever

For a few months, I’ve been guest blogging over at Short and Sweet Reviews on the weekly “Best Book Ever” series, where authors and bloggers offer their recommendations for the best book on any given topic, such as Dragons (my pick: The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien), Indies (Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, published by Small Beer Press), and Strong Female Leads (Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce). To help Amanda celebrate the one year blogaversary of Short and Sweet Reviews, this week we’re hosting some giveaways and featuring a Best Book Ever free-for-all. My choice this week is “Best Childhood Book Ever,” one which I’ve been meaning to blog about for a while:


You’ve probably heard of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien or seen the animated film adapted as The Secret of NIMH. You may even have read his post-apocalyptic young adult novel, Z for Zachariah. But have you read O’Brien’s middle grade fantasy The Silver Crown? Maybe not, since it was out of print for quite some time; but a new edition was published in 2001, and it’s well worth grabbing a copy. I own three, including one from the UK — I wasn’t taking any chances on it going out of print again.

The Silver Crown was O’Brien’s first published book. It appeared in 1968, and I first read it twenty-one years later, when I was in the 6th grade. It stuck with me for a long time; this book has probably informed my taste in fiction and tendencies in writing more than most others I’ve encountered. The story is about a ten-year-old girl named Ellen who wakes up on her birthday to discover a silver crown on her pillow. She slips out with it for an early morning walk, and when she returns she finds her house has burned down with her family inside. That’s pretty dark stuff for a children’s book, and it impressed me even then. Someone is following her, clearly after the crown, and she runs away to look for her aunt. Eventually she meets up with a boy named Otto and they have some trippy adventures as they delve deeper into the dangerous plot she’s mixed up in. Ellen learns that the situation — and the crown itself — are not at all what they seem. It all comes to a satisfactory end, though the U.S. edition features two final chapters: the original ending, which was published in the U.K., and a slightly expanded version that explains events even further.

I reread this book periodically and it still holds up very well for me as an adult, though nostalgia may be working some of its own insidious magic. It’s still refreshing to read a book with such a strong and sympathetic female protagonist, which is common to at least three of O’Brien’s books, that doesn’t talk down to its audience and isn’t afraid to get a little creepy. I’ve just been reminded that I haven’t yet read O’Brien’s fourth book, A Report from Group 17, since it remains out of print. I’ll track it down though, and perhaps it will make an appearance in a future Best Book Ever post.

In addition to Amanda’s giveaway at Short and Sweet Reviews, I’m offering a Fair Coin prize pack that includes a free copy of my novel, bookmarks, a signed postcard, a custom coin case, and a bag of chocolate silver coins.

All you have to do to enter for a chance to win is leave a comment in this post naming one of your favorite childhood books.

For an additional entry, Like my Facebook page at http://facebook.com/flipthecoin or, if you don’t do Facebook, link to this contest on your blog.

For two extra entries, follow me on Twitter (@ecmyers) and tweet about this contest, mentioning me and using the hashtag #faircoin.

You can also add Fair Coin on Goodreads and get an extra entry that way.

Make sure you mention which of the above you do for extra points in your comments so I can count up the entries! I’ll use some randomizer-thingey to select the winner.

The contest will be open until next Thursday, April 5 at 8:00 a.m. EST.

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