There is something extra nice about a thick book, don’t you think? There’s the promise of having lots of story in there to draw out over many wintry evenings. That’s exactly what I did with Colin Meloy’s Wildwood. I missed this one when it came out, but now I’m lucky to be able to follow it up right away with the second in the series, Under Wildwood.
I had a good feeling as soon as I read the first line of this story. It’s a great opening:
How five crows managed to lift a twenty pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries.
After her little brother is kidnapped by the crows, Prue must travel into the Impassable Wilderness in search of him, a vast and mysterious area on the edge of Portland. She doesn’t go alone. On her way she runs into Curtis, a boy from school, who travels with her into the woods. What they find there is beyond belief, a whole other world peopled with talking animals, powerful and dangerous people, and magic. Curtis is captured, taken prisoner by the Dowager Governess, who has evil plans that don’t stay secret for long. Prue soon discovers that war is brewing in Wildwood, and her brother’s fate is tied to the outcome.
The story is quirky and lively, with a cast of characters who are modern and familiar all at once. You will cheer for Prue and Curtis, as they transform from believable ordinary kids who might live down the street from you, into the heroes of a remarkable adventure. The Dowager Governess will certainly remind you of the White Witch, but as much as there are shades of Narnia here, it’s not too much, it just creates a comforting feeling, like a new pair of slippers that feels a little like your favourite old pair. Meloy’s tale is an original, and one that seems perfect for reading aloud, close to a Christmas tree. Carson Ellis’s illustrations could not be a better fit for such a cool, memorable book. It will certainly be just right for any ten-year olds on your list this year (and maybe even for their hip parents).
Wildwood is published by Balzer + Bray.