Will Wilder: The Lost Staff of Wonders
By Raymond Arroyo
2017, Crown Books for Young Readers
352 pages, $17
Last year, EWTN’s World Over news anchor Raymond Arroyo launched his series for middle-grade readers with Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls, which features a 12-year-old hero and a powerful ancient artifact with the power to heal.
Now book No. 2 is out. Will Wilder: The Lost Staff of Wonder is about the fabled staffs of Moses and Aaron, and once these fall into the wrong hands, you can guess what happens.
Will and his neighbors in the sleepy town of Perilous Falls are inundated with biblical plagues — rivers of blood, nasty frogs, swarms of gnats and supernatural darkness.
Why another children’s book series? Because authors and publishers have known for a long time that 8- to 12-year-old readers love series. Children have an almost insatiable appetite for stories about their favorite characters and scenarios.
Arroyo has tapped into that appetite and the current trend of fantasy action-adventure for this age group. His title character, Will Wilder, is from a long line of experts in relics and antiquities, but the artifacts they deal with are not just museum pieces.
They have real power, and all sorts of nasty characters covet these treasures to further their wicked schemes. What the bad guys don’t know is that Will and his family have power, too, which they must learn to tame before they can do battle with the demons that threaten them.
The books are funny, adventurous romps that kids love, but parents will appreciate that each has a theme congruent with its major antagonist.
In the first book, Will tried to do what he wanted without consequence. He had to learn to take responsibility for his choices before he could effectively confront the monstrous foe terrorizing Perilous Falls.
In the second book, the villain intentionally stirs up anger all over town, knowing that rage feeds evil. Will must learn to let go of his bitterness and resentment: “Your anger over the past is blinding you to the present,” says Will’s mentor, Abbot Athanasius. “Once it lodges hatred and wrath there, you will see nothing. Silence and deliberate action are your best weapons against this beast.”
And when Will learns that he’ll be competing against the dubious Brother Baldwin, he can’t contain himself and argues with the Abbot:
“What is he doing here? And how does this help me?”
“It will help you to be vigilant outside and in. This coming battle is principally inside of you. To succeed, you will have to see the external while guarding your thoughts — guarding your heart! Do not allow anger or hatred in. Leave no room for the devil, Will. Only love and faith will save you.”
Wise words, no matter what our age — or what beast we’re trying to vanquish or battle we’re trying to win.
Clare Walker writes from