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The Sword of Darrow is a new action adventure novel for young readers, but with a twist ~ the hardback version will have some special features for readers with learning-disabilities like Dyslexia.

So, we asked a local reading specialist to take a look at an advance copy of the book and let us know what she thought. Here's what she said:

Fredericksburg Parent: What's your association/experience with Dyslexia?
Reading Specialist: I am a reading specialist at an elementary school. I have worked with a few students who seem to struggle with Dyslexia (although schools don't diagnose it and medical diagnoses are harder to obtain in younger students)

FP: What was your favorite aspect of the book?
RS: I enjoyed the unlikely/impossible underdog triumph. I think mature readers learn multiple lessons from this book while experiencing an entertaining plot. It really is the teachers dream ~ engaging AND educational, combining life and academic lessons.

FP: What was your least favorite aspect of the book? Any problems?
RS:  The beginning was slow to gram me. There were so many details and the writing elaborate and specific. I was hungry for the plot and it seemed to take a while to get established.

FP: Any suggestions to make it better?
RS: I am not a critic by any means. Maybe the background/character development could be immersed into the story more? I found the information so valuable as I continued to read but initially is was rough.

FP: Would you recommended it to a friend?
RS: YES!!!


More on the Book From the Publishers:

Prepare to enter a far away, enchanted world, filled with goblins and wizards, princess heroes and magic swords, as father-and-son co-authors Hal and Alex Malchow introduce THE SWORD OF DARROW (BenBella Books; June 7, 2011), a thrilling new adventure for young readers.

A riveting tale of good and evil, the story of how The Sword of Darrow came to be is nearly as compelling as the novel itself. Highly creative, but learning disabled with dyslexia, Alex did not learn to read until age 9. Instead, Hal would read books to his son. Hal and Alex would also make up stories in which Alex would bring a set of characters and a situation.

One day, Alex decided they should write a book together. Every night, they would discuss what would go into each chapter, then Hal would write the narrative and read it to Alex, who would make comments and Hal would make revisions. The result was The Sword of Darrow. Alex is now 16 and, through hard work and determination, has overcome his learning disability. A student at the prestigious St. John's College High School in Washington, D.C., Alex stars on the school's nationally recognized football team.

The hardcover and paperback versions of the book will be released simultaneously. The hardcover edition ($17.99; ISBN 978-1-935618-46-1) will be formatted with special type sizing, line spacing and graphic elements for learning-disabled readers. The paperback ($12.99; ISBN 978-1-935618-47-8) will be typeset as normal, but both editions will include ReadSmart formatting, a program that makes small changes to characters and spacing for optimal reading.

The authors are donating all of their royalties to charities serving learning disabilities, and BenBella Books is donating a portion of its profits to such organizations. The authors and BenBella Books are offering a scholarship competition, in which parents are invited to write a short story with their son or daughter. The book has also been promoted through a partnership with the word of mouth marketing firm BzzAgent.

It is a dark time in the peace-loving kingdom of Sonnencrest. The country has been brutally conquered by the evil goblin empire of Globenwald and its people are desperately looking for a champion to lead them to freedom. Out of this bleak state of affairs emerge two of the unlikeliest of heroes. Young Princess Babette, the only surviving member of the royal family, escapes into the forest to learn the well-guarded secrets of sorcery from the legendary good wizard Asterux. Meanwhile, on the other side of Sonnencrest, a young man named Darrow leaves his small village determined to raise an army and take back his land.

Both of these heroes face overwhelming odds as they prepare for the fight against the powerful goblin army. Babette harbors a dark secret — she can't read because the words dance in front of her; she can't get them to stay still long enough to put them in order. Darrow is small and weak and walks with a limp. How can this pair possibly find the strength and courage to unite an entire nation and inspire others to join them?

About the Authors

Hal Malchow is a nationally recognized political consultant who has worked for candidates at the presidential level all the way down to local offices. His work has won numerous creative awards and he helped pioneer the use of statistical modeling and data mining techniques in the political arena. After becoming discouraged by the negative character of political campaigns, he closed his firm in 2010. He continues to do some consulting and is looking forward to a writing career.

Alex Malchow attended The Lab School in Washington, D.C., where his dyslexia was first addressed. After 12 months of intensive work there, he was reading at his grade level. Now a sophomore at St. John's College High School, Alex's uncanny determination has enabled him to anchor the football team's offensive line, in spite of his relatively small size.

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Pouches' Community Corner

Pouches Visits the Past


If Pouches' experience at History Camp is any indication, your son or daughter will enjoy joining Washington Heritage Museums and the George Washington Foundation for History Camp in Fredericksburg. The week-long day camp will be held June 25-29, from 9:00 a.m. to noon each day.

Young historians discover American history with hands-on experiences as they walk in the footsteps where the history of Fredericksburg, and a budding America, was created. The camp complements the history taught in classrooms with activities such as soap making, code breaking, colonial crafts, penmanship and much more.