Following the kiddie cryfest occasioned by the end of Where The Red Fern Grows, my son Matthew recommended something in a different key for my bedtime reading to his younger brother and sister: Terry Pratchett’s The Bromeliad Trilogywhich is one of his favorite books.

We’re a few chapters in, and it’s as good as he says. I find that I’m enjoying it about as much as Lucas and Nora, because it’s startlingly philosophical and theological, even though it’s written for young readers. It’s a book about nomes (yes, that’s the spelling), little people who live among us. The first book of the trilogy begins with a bedraggled tribe of woodland nomes migrating to a department store, where they find thousands of other nomes living. The store nomes struggle to believe that the outside nomes exist at all; their cosmology, derived from their experience and attempts to read the clues in their environment, told them that the Store is all that exists. The outside nomes cannot exist, therefore they cannot be seen (at least initially) by the priestly class of store nomes.

What’s so entrancing to this reader is how the store nomes created their own cosmology through plausible (but very wrong) interpretations of the clues their own environment gives them. They can’t comprehend human culture (which they disdain as slow-witted), and make big mistakes because they can’t understand what’s being communicated by human language. For example, a sign in the store that reads, “Everything Must Go!” — a sale banner — they interpret as a philosophical maxim, along the lines of “All things must pass,” delivered by God, whose name is Arnold Bros (est. 1905). This is comic, but only in a limited way, as we learn that a cosmic crisis is upon the store gnomes, a crisis that they are not prepared to face because they don’t know how to read the signs of the times.

We’re only eight or nine chapters in, but as a Daddy who’s preoccupied with questions of theology and epistemology, I’m totally entranced. Lucas and Nora don’t appreciate the book on my level, but they’re as into it as I am. Any other fans of this book among my readers?