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A Landscape With Dragons: The Battle for Your Child's Mind [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   125
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.04" Width: 5.33" Height: 0.93"
Weight:   0.75 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 1998
Publisher   Ignatius Press
ISBN  0898706785  
EAN  9780898706789  
UPC  008987067856  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
In this study of the pagan invasion of children's culture, O'Brien describes his own coming to terms with the effect it has had on his family and on most families in Western society. His analysis of the degeneration of books, film, and vidoes for the young is incisive and detailed. Yet his approach is not simply critical, for he suggests a number of remedies, including several tools of discernment for parents and teachers in assessing the moral content and spiritual impact of this insidous revolution. In doing so, he points the way to rediscovery of time-tested sources and to new developments in Christian culture.

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More About Michael O'Brien

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Michael O'Brien, iconographer, painter, and writer, is the popular author of many best-selling novels including Father Elijah, The Father's Tale, Eclipse of the Sun, Sophia House, Theophilos, and Island of the World. His novels have been translated into twelve languages and widely reviewed in both secular and religious media in North America and Europe. He lives in Ontario with his wife, Sheila, and family.

Michael O'Brien was born in 1948.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Great writing,mixed bag of arguments  Jun 14, 2007
When I worked for a Christian homeschooling program, this book was considered essential. It's reccomended in their catalogue, and they've quoted it in their publications. Michael O'Brien is a superb writer. His style is eloquent, charismatic, and compelling. While I haven't read his fiction,"Landscape with Dragons" stands as his definitive piece of non-fiction.

First of all,it's worthwhile to cover this book's strengths. Many parents are unaware of their children's reading habits, or blissfully ignorant of them. After all,yaoi (homoerotic Japanese manga with male same-sex relationships) and slash fiction (homoerotic fanfiction about well-known characters,such as Frodo&Sam getting passionate on their way to Mordor) are popular among teenaged girls--yet the Christian press is generally unaware (though Focus on the Family unsuccessfully whipped up hysteria about Harry Potter). O'Brien makes a strong argument about parents knowing what their children read&offering guidance. He also argues-rightly-that Gnosticism has become fashionable in fiction,along with paganism. This was before the Da Vinci Code was a bestselling book. He sees the Gnosticism in Star Wars&the amorality of recent Disney fare. One wonders what he'd think of the straight-to-DVD fairy tale sequels touted by Disney. Gnosticism presents the allure of secret knowledge,power,along with contempt for the physical world. O'Brien also sees the promotion of atheism in children's fiction-prescient,considering the atheism of Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy,which has outright hatred for religion and God. O'Brien doesn't suggest censorship (like Laura Mallory on her crusade to ban Harry Potter from Georgia schools),but instead offers the alternative of parental guidance.

Now,on to the weak arguments. O'Brien uses the dragon for his "a symbol can mean only one thing" argument. That works in propaganda,NOT art. For example,night represents darkness&evil in John's Gospel,but it represents goodness&love in Shakespeare's classic "Romeo and Juliet." O'Brien makes the laughable argument that Disney's "Pete's Dragon" was the root of all evil,the radix malum,in that company. He also argues that Dungeons&Dragons lures hapless children into the occult. D&D is escapist fun;it's gone on for at least 3 decades. Most people haven't been corrupted by it. O'Brien counsels parents that if their children are into D&D or questionable fantasy literature,they should engage in fasting. That strikes me as manipulative--and ultimately counterproductive. It's a misuse of Mark's Gospel passage about "driving out demons through fasting and prayer." Turning D&D (and according to O'Brien's website,now Harry Potter as well) into a reason for exorcism is ridiculous.Dungeons&Dragons isn't a destructive habit like drugs or sexual promiscuity. He also counsels parents against innocuous books such as Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea series and Madeleine L'Engle's Time series. After all,Madeleine L'Engle is openly Christian,and her series is a different way of showing a Christian viewpoint.

O'Brien's non-fiction introduction to fantasy literature is a good starting place. He has commonsense advice, and his writing is engrossing. "Landscape with Dragons" is like a seaport;it's a jumping-off point,but the rest you must steer the course yourself.
Look Deeper  Oct 14, 2006
I am thoroughly impressed with O'Brien's thoughtful dissection of children's literature. The status quo mentality for most children's books is currently along the lines of "This is great! Children will love this! It's getting them to read!" As an elementary teacher, it is tempting to buy into that enthusiasm for any book series that children are eating up. But the author shows tremendous insight by pulling back the curtain and asking, "At what price?"

It is a fascinating premise for a book. When you look at how radically literature (and films as well) have been altered over the last 50 years, it is certainly time we start questioning where we are headed. In the forward, David Sloan states, "In this collection of essays, we are not told where that line is; we are told how to recognize it."

The book's thesis is excellent, and he works hard to persuade us without coming across as damning or alarmist. There are some places where I felt maybe he was being too sensitive, but then I just had to ask myself if being too sensitive to sin was a bad thing. The cohesiveness of the essays is somewhat disjointed; there is not much connectivity between the different chapters, which can be a little jarring. A brief summary of some of his key points, paraphrased in my own words.
-The dragon, a centuries-old Western symbol of evil is being made into a friendly, misunderstood creature.
-Children's moral compasses are still developing and need literary characters that exhibit heroic virtue. Their young minds do not understand flawed heroes.
-That being said, they are very drawn to rebellion and dangerous things because they see them as cool, often wanting to emulate behavior of their favorite characters.
-He discusses Disney movies for quite a while, concerning how the movie counterparts of classic literature have been changed to reflect less virtue.
-He examines several popular science-fiction authors (including Madeline L'Engle-who I loved as a kid) and the subtle New Age influences they slip into their writing.
-In his conclusion, Are Christians Intolerant? (great title) he reasons that yes, we are, and that it is good to be prejudiced against harmful things the same way it is right for a mother to be biased against snakes, wolves and other predators.
-An outstanding reading list is provided at the end. What an enriching resource! Almost 100 pages of reccommended lit for children, teens and adults. This tremendous list made my wife decide we needed our own copy of this book.

It is interesting to note that some of the most convincing examples of twisted children's literature and film are not even mentioned in this book, because they hadn't yet come to the author's attention. Published in 1998, Harry Potter was just starting to take off, and the phenomenally successful Shrek movies were yet to be released. When you think about how these two characters appeal to children, I became pretty convinced that O'Brien was certainly on to something. In that sense, I believe his book will continue to be prophetic of what we are to see unless we start making more conscientious decisions as consumers.

And that's what I enjoyed the most about "Landscape with Dragons" -that it empowered me to make my own decisions awarely; I didn't feel the author was trying to convince me to read the same books as he did, watch the same movies, and banish anything heathen from the home. Instead, he encouraged to look deeper. Look beyond the surface. I don't think I will read books or watch movies the same way. This book has given me another lens to look at literature and film through, another tool to appreciate their worth (or lack thereof). I would definitely reccommend this for any parents and teachers who have ever read a book and felt "Something is not quite right with this." This book just might open your eyes to what that something lying under the surface is.

Every Parent Needs to Read this Book  Jan 5, 2005
What if you could have Dostoevsky sit down with you as a parent and teach you about the children's stories that were important to forming him as an artist and a human being? This is what is offered to every PARENT who buys this book. Michael O'Brien is a living genius who is not only a novelist of the highest caliber (having been seriously compared to Dostoevsky), but he is an accomplished artist and man of profound moral depth and wisdom. In this important book, he examines the deep structure of children's stories from old Fairy Tales and the books like The Lord of the Rings, to the modern stories on offer from Disney and others such as the Harry Potter books. Stories, tales and mythologies are important for a child's healthy development, stories change lives and guide adult decisions. O'Brien's thesis is that the big selling stories given to our chidren today carry a perverted cosmology - one that he rightly describes as "gnostic." Briefly, a gnostic world view levels a foundation built on notions of right and wrong, good and evil, heroism and villiany, and replaces it with a totalizing vision of power alone as the only good. This kind of world view has very damaging effects on children. O'Brien helps the parent to discern what literature and movies are healthy for children by giving parents the tools to discern for themselves. This is an eye opener of a book. Every parent should read it.
Fab Resource For Parents & Children's Lit Lovers  Oct 31, 2004
Michael O'Brien presents a text written specifically for parents who are concerned or questioning what children should read. He creates a ranking system that can help guide a parent's thinking. He also gives numerous examples and details on how to rank books and to discern the content. O'Brien specifically address Christian and pagan influences in children's lit.

I am a divinity school student studying religion and literature, with a special emphasis on children's/teen's literature and spirituality. There is an abundance of children's lit that focuses on magic and pagan influences. There's also an abundance of children's lit that intricately mixes Christian and pagan worlds. O'Brien's book help his audience think about the complexities this can cause. And he does so in an objective and informed manner.

How do you decide what is good for your children? And, when/if you allow them to read something which clearly has some or a lot of Pagan emphasis, how do you talk with your kids about it? O'Brien does not shy away from giving his opinions, but he also does not just slam the door on the discussion.

Chapters one through three give PERSONAL reflections from a father's perspective and experiences of raising his children and struggling with various issues. Chapters four, five, and six really get into in-depth details and dilemmas. The latter chapters were most helpful to me as a student.

As a big fan of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien as well as J.K. Rowling, I am always on the lookout for good books that provide a solid critiques about fantasy literature and spirituality. O'Brien certainly makes a positive contribution to the field.

*NOTE* O'Brien's book was published in 1998. It'd be great for a new updated edition to come out and address Harry Potter as well as the Witch's Night Out series, which makes Harry Potter seem like the last thing to be concerned about. It does not particularly focus on the Harry Potter series, but identifies several books in children's lit and breaks their storyline down thoroughly.

I also think O'Brien's scale (Ranking books 1 to 4 in regards to Christian and Pagan trends) could be improved, but, with that said, O'Brien tackles a lot that others do not, so I can live with these needs for improvement!

Lastly, O'Brien's attitude towards dragons in literature is harsh. He limits the image of a dragon to personified evil, though he does so powerfully. IF you can particularly look over his personal reflections and focus on the meat of the book in the latter chapters, then this is a great book. It does not "ride the fence" like so many other books attempting to address Christian and pagan influences in children's lit.
Every Father Should Read This Book Once A Year  Sep 8, 2004
An excellent and inspiring book. I use the word "inspiring" in the old fashioned sense of "it made me take action" not merely "it made me feel good."

I re-read this book every year or so, not only to dip into the wonderful appendix of recommended books, but to rekindle my courage and dedication to raising my sons. O'Brien writes in mythic tones as he recommends mythic literature. The old stories dealt with "powers and principalities" of good and evil, and O'Brien reminds us that it is ever so. Our children become flush-faced and wide-eyed at such stories, but we have allowed ourselves to be diluted and deluded into thinking that gray is the only reality. We lose not only black and white, but the primary colors as well!

O'Brien is a Catholic, a Christian - and is both unapologetic and unobtrusive with his convictions. That is, he makes clear the traditional rationale for his thinking, but the reader neither has to agree nor adopt those convictions to come to the same conclusions.

There are some books which one revisits again and again, and some authors you look forward to meeting and talking with. This book (and his Sojourners novels) and this author are in that category.


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