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An Afterword . . .

In 1957, Follett Publishing Company of Chicago published a book by a fellow by the name of Edward Ormondroyd. That book was called David and the Phoenix, and in 1958, the Weekly Reader Children's Book Club brought out its own edition.

I was six years old that year, and David and the Phoenix is the very first book I can remember reading entirely to myself.

It made an impression.

Aside from the fact that the book's human protagonist had the best imaginable first name, it had several other things going for it. It was written for young people, but it wasn't written down to them. It was written in the sort of prose any writer could do well to learn from. And, most importantly of all, it told a marvelous story which taught that the world is full of wonder.

I can think back to most of the important, formative writers who first turned me into a reader, and, ultimately, into a writer myself. C. S. Lewis is on the list, and so are Walter Farley, Arthur Ransome, and Edward Ormondroyd. Indeed, for me, he came first; the others simply followed the trail he'd blazed and took me to other destinations.

Over the years, I hung on to the Weekly Reader copy of the book I purloined from my older brother Mike. I still have it, as a matter of fact, and I intend to go right on hanging onto it. (So there, Mike!) But in the last couple of years, I've revisited David and the Phoenix, and seen it from a rather different perspective.

I've been reading it aloud to my own children. Sharon and I are both readers ourselves, of course, and we deliberately set out, with careful premeditation, to turn our kids into readers, as well. As part of our nefarious plan, Daddy reads to them every night. (After all, the first taste is always free.) Mommy gets the day shift's reading, and we double-team them fairly well, I think.

There have been a few evenings of slippage, especially since Michael Paul, our youngest, discovered Finding Nemo. Michael can be a bit . . . insistent, and he has a two-year-old's stubbornness. (Well, there's also that additional little streak of willfulness he gets from his mom, of course, but we won't talk about that.) Still, all three of the children have been through David and the Phoenix at least twice now. And when I went on a signing tour, I recorded the entire book on CD, so that Morgan Emily and Megan Elizabeth (and Mikey, although he was only five months old at the time) wouldn't miss their fix of Daddy-reading while I was gone.

In case you haven't already figured it out, I think this is one of the very best young-adult books ever written. And it's pretty amazing how many people I run into at science-fiction conventions who read the same book when they were younger.

Unhappily, it went out of print eventually. And it stayed out of print for a long time. But then, in 2000, Purple House Press in Cynthiana, Kentucky, reissued it in paperback. When I got my hands on a copy of the Purple House edition, I contacted them, and through them, got Mr. Ormondroyd's very kind permission to quote from the book in At All Costs. Not just because it was one of my most beloved childhood stories, but because the central imagery and theme of the book fitted so perfectly into the story I had to tell about Honor Harrington.

I take the reissue of this book after forty-three years as a good sign for the future. It's always possible, of course, that the Society for Creative Anachronism of two thousand years from now, won't have the good taste and good sense to keep it in print then. However, I understand that Purple House intends to keep it in print.

This is what is known as A Good Thing. It gives any of you haven't read it the opportunity to repair your oversight.

Take it.

Whether you have children to read it to or not, this is truly a work of wonder which will repay your time with Gryffins (and also Gryffons and Gryffens), Leprechauns, Banshees who feed their wails on heads of cabbage, Witches with racing broomsticks, Fauns, Sea Monsters, the pipes of Pan himself, and, most wondrous of all, the Phoenix. With that sense of both loss and perpetual renewal. Of friendship, love, the willingness to sacrifice for both, and the ability to let go at the end because of love.

It's a marvelous book, and like the Phoenix, its wonder will never really die.


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