LUG, Dawn of the Ice Age, by David Zeltser

I was instantly intrigued by LUG, based on the premise and cover, and delighted when I won my copy in a giveaway hosted by the illustrious Joanne!  Doubly so because I enjoyed her interview with author David Zeltser.  And the book did not disappoint.  Since finishing it, I’ve found myself eagerly pressing it into the hands of my daughter, which made her drop the books she was already holding and roll her eyes at me…but I digress.  LUG is about a boy cave-painter who must save his clan from impending doom, despite their having kicked him out to die.

LUG Dawn of the Ice Age cover

It’s got some great secondary story threads that I particularly enjoyed, above and beyond the main one, like the way that art can heal.  However, it is essential on opening the book that you realize that LUG, Dawn of the Ice Age, is a fable.  I didn’t realize this initially, and found myself cringing over the opening, urgent forward, penned by Lug himself.  I was mostly astonished that a modern kids book had come out with such a blatant ‘and the moral of my story is’ opener, since children’s literature has mostly moved away from moral stories and now embraces fiction that serves the story first.  On looking back, I think that was my first clue that this was a fable.  The second was the inconsistent vocabulary, with the use of really primitive names (like their mountain being called simply Bigbigbig) while the animals they ride are macrauchenia.  Of course there are reasons, I’m sure, that the author felt the scientific term was best for the mount…but still.  My third clue was the historic inaccuracies, which struck me as particularly odd after the careful use of the correct prehistoric animal terms.  Things like having a few red-heads in Lug’s neighboring clan, when while that was technically possible, was highly unlikely and to the best of my knowledge would not have displayed the typical red-hair coloring that we associate with modern red-heads, because any potential for red hair at that time was caused by a different mutation.

I know, I know!  Only something a history geek would care about.  But, still, a third clue.   The fourth clue was that each of the character’s seemed to represent a type, and that type was larger and more important than the character themselves. Lug, the artist.  His friend Stony, the strong silent type.  His new friend Echo, the ahead-of-her-time vegetarian.  And so on.  I was enjoying the story, but these oddities kept throwing me out, making me shake my head before diving back in.  Then the light bulb went off (I wonder how Lug would have drawn that?) and I realized that despite being a mix of animal and human characters, this was for me a fable.  And it’s funny how that calmed down all that twitching going on in the neck area and let me just enjoy the story.  Yes, that maybe says more about my need to categorize than it does the novel, but I do think going into it with that information would make the read more enjoyable.  And in the end, the story is none the worse for its fable roots!  You’ll come to love Lug, and perhaps just as importantly, his entire misguided clan, and be on the edge of your seat by the end as they battle against overwhelming odds in a changing and dangerous world.  Also, you may want a pet mammoth.

Now, let’s see what Apricot-kitty thought of it:

Apricot Headshot evil eye“This was a book all about people needing to keep an open mind, correct?  To notice the changes in their world, adapt as necessary, and look to leaders who could innovate?  So, why then are the saber-toothed tigers depicted as the bad guys?  They did all of that, and did it well.  The fact that your human ancestors happened to be on the dinner menu shouldn’t have made a difference…unless you’re going to be closed-minded, of course.”



She’s got me there.  The book does have a bias–or two–and one of them is a preference for the characters to remain alive, and avoid winding up someone else’s dinner.  Read at your own risk. 😉

For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday spotlights, reviews, interviews and giveaways, check out Shannon’s blog, and happy reading!


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