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Check It Out

Courier Article by Andrea Wannemuehler
Sunday, February 19, 2012

New Fiction Section of Local Libraries Is Excellent Way to Discover Fresh, Charming Tales

The new fiction section of local libraries is an excellent way to discover fresh, charming tales. One might be taken by a clever title or beautifully rendered book cover, with words inside carefully crafted to captivate. When walking into any library, visitors can (and surely ought to) let themselves be caught by the plethora of new, promising books that are waiting to find their reader.

However, on one such occasion, I walked straight past the new fiction shelves and into the children's center, in pursuit of a particular new juvenile novel. Before your sophisticated tendencies balk and lead you to turn away, I suggest that you hold tight while I tell you about this book crafted by an especially popular wordsmith of today. He has made his markedly adult presence in the realm of music, as a song writer and lead singer of the indie folk rock band, The Decemberists. Though written with a younger audience in mind, a curious reader of any age will certainly delight in Colin Meloy's "Wildwood."

Prue McKeel, a precocious seventh grader, is out one Saturday cycling around Portland, Oregon, with her young brother Mac towed behind in his red wagon. A very ordinary day until a murder of crows swoops down upon Mac and kidnaps him, taking him to the Impassable Wilderness — a forbidden woods in the middle of Portland that is impenetrable by modern dwellers. Until now.

Thus begins an enormous adventure and an engrossing story, as Prue sets off to find her kidnapped brother in Wildwood, with enchanted portals, anthropomorphic animals, flippant bureaucrats, bandit separatists, meditating sages and a sinister Dowager Governess. It is a world that will certainly invoke thoughts of Narnia for fans of C.S. Lewis.

Prue takes on, albeit reluctantly, schoolmate Curtis in the quest to find her brother. The two start out exploring the outskirts of the Impassable Woods until they are discovered by coyote soldiers and are separated in their attempt to get away. The story then splits to follow Prue, who takes refuge in the postmaster's delivery van to seek help, and Curtis, who is captured by the coyotes and taken to the Dowager Governess. It becomes clear that Prue and Curtis have landed on two opposing sides of a building war, but which side has good intentions is not always evident.

Carson Ellis, Meloy's wife, brings to life the characters and rich world of "Wildwood" through her whimsical illustrations, capturing some scenes in colorful full-page spreads. Though the book comes in at 541 pages, it is replete with engaging characters and an engrossing plot, crafted by an author who has a penchant for poetic writing. The book is the first in a chronicle, and young people and adults alike can certainly look forward to all the delights Wildwood has in store.