Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wildwood by Colin Meloy, Illustrated by Carson Ellis

Prue leads a perfectly normal life in Portland. She has her lovable hippie parents, and her little brother Mac who she takes care of during the weekends. Yep, everything's absolutely average.

That is until her brother is taken by a murder of crows into the Impassable Wilderness. That is until Prue and her friend Curtis stumble their way into the forest and then are split up; one to be taken prisoner by a coyote army and the other to be taken in by a postman. Prue realizes that everything has ties to one another, but she can't help but wonder how did saving her brother turn into a revolution and stopping a madwoman from destroying an unknown community?

First off I would like to state that Colin Meloy is the lead singer and songwriter of one of my favorite bands the Decemberists. He is CRAZY talented, and his albums are pretty epic, which makes sense once you see the size of this book. Carson Ellis is his wife and you might recognize her artwork most notably from The Mysterious Benedict Society. At least that's where I recognized it from, there and all of the Decemberists' CD covers. They are two incredibly gifted people and I was pretty excited to see what they created.

Let me point out the obvious: This book is pretty epic. It's told from two different perspectives (Prue and Curtis's), it has a large number of fully developed characters, and the arc of the plot is pretty expansive. Many of the tropes and characterizations remind me of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Except better. More complex storyline and greater depth in characters. There were some great little twists and turns, and I think it's a pretty solid novel. Nice balance of hipster mentality and timeless tale.

Here's my one niggle about the book, it's supposedly aimed at kids ages 8-12. Yes, the themes, plot arc, and characters are pretty spot on; but there's some vocabulary that seems way beyond what a 16 year old would use let alone someone half their age. Also the book tops out at 541 pages, which is daunting to say the least. This is a good read, but I don't think it's for your average reader. It's for the reader that's 10 and reading at a high school level or a parent or teacher doing a read aloud. I'm just not sure who their audience is going to be.

So go listen to a Decemberists' cd (my favorite is The Hazards of Love) and then read this book. As long as you have the vocabulary of a college student.

Wildwood comes out Aug. 30.


  1. I just finished this one. I actually had a hard time getting in to it. I found it a little slow. I agree that some of the language was above the average middle-schooler, but I definitely know middle school kids who could handle it, and would relish the epicness of the book.

  2. Agreed. Slow start, but kind of worth getting into.


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