Saturday, January 21, 2012

Impassable Wilderness

Prue lives outside Portland with her family. Since she was a baby she's been warned not to go near the Impassable Wilderness. One day, she is at the park with her Sibley Guide and her baby brother, Mac, when suddenly Mac is abducted by a murder of crows. This is the beginning of Wildwood, written by Colin Meloy (singer/songwriter for the band the Decemberists) and illustrated by his wife Carson Ellis. Despite being over 500 pages long, this book is written at about a 5th to 6th grade reading level.

On the whole, it was an enjoyable book. I'm pretty good at willing suspension of disbelief, so I had no problem with the abduction by crows, oblivious parents, or a forest full of bandits, talking animals and mystics who talk to trees, just outside of Portland. It's Meloy's first novel, which accounts for some of the times during my reading when I was a little dissatisfied with how things were going (novel writing is difficult work, at least for most of us). I also had trouble with the two main characters, Prue and her friend Curtis always believing evil people who were lying to them. But that wasn't a problem with the book so much as it was a problem with me and my recognition that I would probably be too trusting and gullible myself.

The novel has a clear environmentalist bent that I find appealing, especially since it acknowledged, figuratively and literally, the evilness of invasive ivy. I also liked that the readers, who are probably mostly kids, are not talked down to. They will probably learn a few new vocabulary words while reading. I have no problem with a writer using "smart" words that his readers might not know provided that those words are the "right" ones for the situation. If you've ever written something, you'll know what I mean by that. I think Meloy employed the occasional "smart" word very well.

There were a few small plot annoyances and I didn't care for how Curtis's story ended. But, I think that was just a setup for the sequel. Yes, there will be a sequel, and I will read it.

This would probably be a fun book for families to read together. For more information, you can visit the book's very pleasant website at:

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