• Happy birthday Polly Horvath (Everything on a Waffle).
  • It’s the birthdate of Michael Dorris (1945–1997), Morning Girl, A Yellow Raft in Blue Water.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945), the longest serving United States president was born on this day. Read A Boy Names FDR: How Franklin D. Roosevelt Grew Up to Change America by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, FCR’s Alphabet Soup: New Deal America 1932–1939 by Tonya Bolden, and Breakfast at the Liberty Diner by Daniel Kirk.
  • In 1933, Adolf Hitler is sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. Read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

On January 30,1924, Lloyd Alexander was born in Philadelphia. He knew from the age of fifteen that he wanted to be a writer, and for seventeen years he wrote for adults. Then in 1963, this charming, erudite author published his first children’s book, Time Cat, and 1964, his second, The Book of Three. His editor Ann Durell, believed both in the book itself and the author—two judgments that would be justified over time—and she printed 20,000 copies with confidence. Never out of print and never out of favor with young readers, this volume introduces a fascinating set of characters in The Chronicles of Prydain series.

Alexander worked in U.S. Army intelligence in Wales during World War II. To write his new series he began intensive research into the mythology and history of that country, reading Lady Charlotte Guest’s Mabinogion at least a dozen times. For the next seven years he continued the story that he started in The Book of Three—one that introduces as its main character, Taran, a hero who serves as an assistant pig keeper but longs for great adventures. However lowly this position seems, Taran fiercely guards a white oracular pig named Hen Wen.

When Hen Wen escapes, Taran sets out to find her and ends up on a quest with a strange group of companions—Gurgi, a Golem-like figure, Fflewddur Fflam, a bard with a harp whose strings break when he tells a lie, Princess Eilonwy, an independent young woman who uses magic and cunning to keep them all alive, and Doli, a dwarf who tries to make himself invisible. It doesn’t look much like a heroic band, but in their case looks turn out to be deceiving. Although The Book of Three works perfectly well as a single volume, it also sets up the rest of the series. Millions of children have fallen under its spell over the decades. Perfect for eight to eleven year olds, the Chronicles of Prydain provides exciting fantasy for those a bit too young for Harry Potter or J.R.R. Tolkien.

Alexander lived to be eighty-three, won the Newbery Award for the final book in the series, The High King, and received multiple National Book Awards. His rise to fame began with a dinner with Ann Durell, when he beguiled her with the idea of the Chronicles of Prydain series. Then he went on to capture the hearts of young readers with the final results.

Happy birthday Lloyd; you are personally missed by so many of us who had a chance to meet you over the years.

Here’s a passage from The Book of Three:

“You have cause for a certain pride nevertheless. It was you who held the companions together and led them . . . If you made mistakes, you recognized them. As I told you, there are times when the seeking counts more than the finding . . . Nothing we do is ever done entirely alone. There is a part of us in everyone else—you, of all people, should know that.”


Originally posted January 30, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Adventure, Award Winning, Magic, Newbery


  1. Tom Angleberger says:

    Well, I think Prydain is better than HP and certainly stands with Lord if the Rings as a fantasy masterpiece.

    Meanwhile, Prince Jen is one if the best single-volume adventures ever written.

  2. The movie is very loosely based on the first two books of Lloyd Alexander s five-book series published 1964 1968 The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron. The other books are The Castle of Llyr Taran Wanderer and The High King. When The High King was released in 1969 the book won the for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

  3. Karen Smith says:

    A teacher at my school is currently reading this to her fourth graders. Her inspiration was that a principal who had recently observed her told her that it was his favorite book at that age. Isn’t it wonderful that he brought this great book to her attention!

  4. Danni says:

    The Book of Three is a high fantasy with a unique and memorable cast of characters. Look out Wilbur – Hen Wen not only talks, but she can tell the future!

  5. Autumn Topping says:

    How is it that I have never heard of these books or Lloyd Alexander? I love fantasy, especially Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. The plot sounds intriguing as do the band of characters. I’ll be sure to check this out when I find time. A great suggestion. Oh, and I absolutely love The Book Thief. I recommend it to everyone. It’s poetically beautiful.

  6. Teri-K says:

    The Taran books are truly some of the best fantasy available. Every volume has it’s own personality, yet they work together as a perfect whole. I recently re-read these books, and was as delighted as ever. Thank you for featuring them.

  7. I loved this series as a child! Thanks for your post! Oh, and for tomorrow, LOVE Where the Mountain Meets the Moon!

  8. Tess W. says:

    Another fabulous book, Anita! I actually listened to this on audiobook, rather than reading it. It kept me company during my summer holiday home to Seattle while I chopped and stacked wood for my parents. It was kind of a perfect outdoor read – lots of adventures and treks and quests. And my parents live in the woods, essentially – it was the first book I’ve read in years where I was kind of expecting characters to burst out of the treeline ^_^

  9. Z-Dad says:

    Oh how I love this book. I practically lived in Prydain as a child. I don’t think any other author has had more influence on me creatively.

  10. Sarah T says:

    This has been one of my favorite books since I was old enough to read chapter books! It’s one of those stories where the images have stuck with me through a lifetime. To this day, this book inspires me in my own writing and dreaming. I read the whole series every couple of years, and think of Prydian often.

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