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With three tremendous films endlessly receiving awards and a humongous gang of old fans and new, "The Lord of The Rings" trilogy has now become almost more popular than it was when author J.R.R. Tolkien's original novels were first released. Yet with the popularity of the films, one can not forget the beginning of it all -- "The Hobbit," Tolkien's prequel to his three epic novels.

The Theatre of Youth has certainly not forgotten about this classic. Its new play, "The Hobbit," runs through Nov. 7.

"The Hobbit" is a an adventure story set in the imaginary Middle Earth. Our nervous hero is a hobbit, Bilbo Baggins (played by Tim Newell), who is persuaded by the wizard Gandalf (Roger Keicher) to go on a journey marked by dwarves, dragons, magic, and courage.

This adaptation of "The Hobbit," penned by Patricia Gray, is a more playful, less dark look at the book, making it ideal for a younger set of children; seven- and eight-year-olds will enjoy the fun story of adventure and the hero, Bilbo Baggins. Yet this is still Tolkien, and "The Hobbit" is an appealing play for any fan of Middle Earth, child or not.

The real magic at work in "The Hobbit"" is TOY's incredible use of light, scenery and special effects and the large group of actors who help to bring the story to life.

With everything from towering trolls and daring battle scenes to the creepy Gollum and his special ring, "The Hobbit" is exciting and fun without being too scary.

The message of the play is that's it's important to face the unknown and take risks. With "The Hobbit," the Theatre Of Youth has taken a big risk and has succeeded -- "The Hobbit" is an onstage adaptation full of excitement, wonder and imagination.


These early birds in The NeXt Book Club who sent in book reviews of Tolkien's "The Hobbit" won free passes to Theatre of Youth's production: Maria Hayes of Akron Central High; Tyler Piraino of Dalton Elementary School in Nunda; Alec Miller of East Elementary in West Seneca; and Quinn Bushen of Saint Mary of the Lake School. Thanks to TOY for donating the tickets! Other readers are encouraged to send their reviews of 120 words or less to NeXt Book Club, Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240 by Nov. 10. Include your name, age, school, home mailing address and phone number so we can enter them in a drawing for prizes. The alternate titles for people who can't get their hands on a copy of "The Hobbit" are "Inkheart" by Cornelia Funke, "Unfortunate Events" books by Lemony Snicket and "Lion Boy" by Zizou Corder.

Here are some reviews:

"Magic. Dragons. Elves. Sound appealing? Then a must-read for you is "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien. This novel is action-packed. The protagonist Bilbo is a peaceful hobbit. He is forced into peril and mortal danger as he makes his way to the Lonely Mountain with a band of dwarves so they can steal back their treasure from a fierce dragon. However they first must brave their way through a forest filled with danger. This could be read by children 11 and up as long as they don't mind the frightening parts..If you are a fan of C.S. Lewis or Robert Jordan, "The Hobbit' is a book that you'll enjoy immensely."

-- Maria Hayes, Akron
"The book is about Bilbo who is recruited by Gandalf and some dwarves to recover their treasure from Smaug the dragon. Along the way they run into goblins, giant spiders and skin-changing people. My favorite part of the book was when Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves were stuck in the trees and Gandalf hit the chief warg in the nose with a pine cone that was on fire. I would recommend this book because it has tons of adventure and makes many other books seem dull and boring."

Tyler Piraino, Dalton Elementary