Friday, July 8, 2011
Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham
Max "The Wolf" has woken up in a forest he doesn't know. As a super sleuth boy scout he tries to put together the pieces, and figure out why he cannot remember the last few days of his life. Adding to his confusion are the talking animals. Banderbock, the grizzled army badger; McTavish the Monster, a fearsome surly yellow animal that sometimes looks like a cat; and Walden, a black bear sheriff who kind of reminds me of the cowardly lion. They are all searching for answers and they eventually discover that the only way they'll get them is to make it to a sanctuary, specifically Wizard Swift's sanctuary. But this unknown world seems to be working against them. They must keep away from the Blue Cutters' influence, whose swords make horrible changes to personalities.
Bill Willingham is the writer of the fantastic graphic novel series Fables and Mark Buckingham who has illustrated volumes of Fables, most notably 1001 Nights of Snowfall which Arianna and I both loved. This is Bill Willingham's first non-graphic novel book, and it was fantastic! It wasn't as dark as I expected (and secretly hoped) it to be, there were some great action sequences and the characters were awesome! I'm telling you within the first few words of introduction of each you knew who they were, related to them, and yet they still managed to surprise you.
This book reminded me a little bit of the Wizard of Oz, Terry Brooks' Shannara series, and Winnie the Pooh. Willingham does an amazing of balancing the mystery, action, humor and an insight of what makes a good middle-grade book. It's not heavy handed, it's not trying to be 'edgy.' It is succeeding at being a solid read, with a thoroughly enjoyable twist at the end.
Mark Buckingham's silhouetted illustrations really enhance the story and create a rather retro feel to the story. There's nothing super overt, and knowing the fact that Buckingham is capable of extremely intricate and detailed art makes the seeming self-imposed restrictions of the simplistic illustrations more incredible.
If it wasn't apparent, I really enjoyed this book. It wasn't going for the jugular, it wasn't flashy, and it wasn't so fast-paced you couldn't keep up. On the flip-side it wasn't slow, boring, or sleepy. It was a solid read, with just enough twists to keep you on your toes. A fantastic recommendation for younger middle-grade.
This book comes out this September 13th.