Wildwood by Colin Meloy, illustrations by Carson Ellis
Prue is babysitting her brother in the park one day when a flock of crows fly down and pick him up, carrying him out of Portland and into the Impassible Wilderness. Determined not to loose him, Prue goes after him. Curtis, a classmate who’s never really fit in anywhere is determined to help her, and together they set out. But when they run into an army of coyotes they get separated. Oddly enough, a kidnapping flock of crows and an army of coyotes aren’t even the weirdest thing either of them will experience on their adventure, as they discover an evil villain who’s plan will destroy all of Wildwood and kill Mac, Prue’s little brother.
To me, there are two really unique things about this book, in addition to it’s charming, humourous writing style and fairy tale-esque feel: the coming of age stories and the wonderful cast of supporting characters. Really, when that’s what you’re working with, you come out with a great book.
Here there be spoilers.
Curtis and Prue both have really well developed coming of age stories. Curtis, newly captured by coyotes begins his journey by joining the Dowager Governess and her armies. But when Curtis realizes she isn’t who she appears he chooses to resist her, the first real choice he makes since his arrival in Wildwood, and it is made alone. He ends up thrown in prison for his defiance and there he meets his fellow prisoners. They are all adults, but it’s Curtis who facilitates their escape, with the help of Septimus the rat. After that, Curtis falls in with the Bandit King, but he’s just enlisted into the army and marches to war. In the end he chooses to stay in Wildwood instead of returning to his family in Portland. He’s no Harry Potter, with Dumbledore, Siris Black or Remus Lupin looking out for him – every choice he makes is his own, guided only by his sense of what’s right and wrong and his own courage.
Prue’s experience is different. First she meets a friendly postman who helps her along, but he sends her to the Governor for help. However, the Governor has no intention of helping her. Luckily Owl Rex, the Crowned Prince of the Aviary District moves to help her but he only sets her on the path to North Woods to get help from the Mystics before he is arrested for treason. Prue flees to the Aviary District with the help of a few friends, meets the General, who again offers his help, only to be killed before he can get her to North Woods. Once again alone, she is rescued by the Bandit King, who agrees to help her but is captured by the Dowager Governess. The Governess even acts as a mentor to Prue, encouraging her to simply return home and promising that she will protect Mac. Prue, in desperate need of an adult to help her, agrees. But even when she returns home she finds out that her parents knew about this risk to Mac and that they cannot offer her any comfort, so she once again heads off into the forest, where she finally finds the Mystics. There at last she finds an adult who is willing and able to help her. Despite all the helping hands Prue gets along the way, she alone is responsible for the journey she takes and she takes it alone.
For a child, it’s a pretty empowering story because adults are either very temporary, forcing the children to work things out on their own or not to be trusted, in which case they are outsmarted and everybody enjoys that, don’t they?
It also saves you from sad mentor death, because there really isn’t one.
Wildwood also has a wonderful bunch of supporting characters, from the talking animals like Septimus the Rat, Dmitri the defector Coyote and Evner the Swallow to Brandon the Bandit King and Richard the Postman all the way to the Mystics, all of whom are all wise and powerful without loosing their character. The writing is careful, beautiful with a mix of serious subject matter, like human sacrifice and sweet innocent moments, like Curtis trying to teach the bandits Mustang Sally.
It’s a thick book, good for an older strong reader or a read aloud with parents who are looking for something a little more complex and I would recommend it highly!
Last movie I watched:
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dream Coat. Feel free to judge me starting now.
Last TV show I watched:
Second last episode of Buffy EVER!! Man, those script writers were ON FIRE.