Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Down the Mysterly River: A Ripping Boys' Adventure

Max the Wolf, a young cub scout suddenly finds himself wandering through a strange forest with no memory of how he got there.Max, it turns out, is an accomplished young detective, and quickly sets to work trying to figure out where he is and why. Before long, he meets a talking Badger named Banderbrock, who is a fearsome warrior, and McTavish the Monster, a foul-tempered tomcat who is fleeing from a savage hunter and his hounds. They somehow manage to overcome the odds to beat him, and the now party of three escape with their lives. Eventually, they pick up a fourth member- a lovable but dopey bear named Walden. The group hears word of a mysterious wizard who can supposedly shed some light on the mystery, and they set out on a quest to find him,  all the while trying to stay ahead of the Blue Cutters- a savage group of hunters who use their blue swords who recreate the forest's inhabitants into something that more suits their taste.

In his middle-grade debut, Bill Willingham, the creator of the popular graphic novel series Fables, has written an old-fashioned mystery/adventure story of the best kind. Max is intelligent, courageous, and quite level-headed, and he uses logic that would impress Encyclopedia Brown to puzzle out where he is and why.

The supporting characters are equally as impressive, and like Dorthy's troupe in The Wizard of Oz, each has their strengths and weaknesses. Banderbrock is the courageous warrior, and he frequently saves the group from peril. McTavish is selfish and srcastic, but is sharp and clever. Walden is true-hearted and fiercely loyal,a and thinks nothing of putting himself at risk for his friends. In fact, at several points during the novel he becomes gravely wounded, but makes a miraculous recovery at each turn.

The concept of the Blue Cutters may seem a bit of a complicated one for young readers, but they play a tremendous role in the mystery, and clever kids will figure out how what they have to do with Max and his friends. I don't want to explain too much or it will spoil the book, but let's just say it was very cool.

The adventure, once it gets started moves along swiftly, and there is plenty of danger and action to suit a middle-grade audience. There is also a fair amount of violence, but not the same kind of violence that inhabits movies or even books like The Hunger Games. The writing is at times overly descriptive, which might turn-off readers, but this kind of language does lend itself well to being read-aloud. It's also worth mentioning that there are no girls in this story, and few grown-ups, and the focus stays primarily with Max and his friends.

Being one of the "hype books" of the fall, I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was frequently reminded of books like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Wind in the Willows, and while it lacks the flash of some of the more popular fiction, it's a book well-worth sharing with boys between 8 and 10 years old.