Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wildwood Is Coming to the AJC DBF!

I've blogged for the past several days about Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis coming to the AJC Decatur Book Festival.  Now it's time to talk about their book.

Wildwood is primarily set in the ominously titled Impassible Wilderness, a wooded area just across the river from Prue McKeel's neighborhood in Portland.  When her infant brother, Mac, is taken by crows to the IW, twelve-year-old Prue is determined to get him back -- even thought no one who has entered the IW has returned to talk about it.  Joined by casual acquaintance and nerdy classmate Curtis Mehlberg, Prue finds the IW to be populated by humans (including bandits and mystics) and talking animals (such as coyote soldiers, an avian army, and a friendly rat), politically subdivided, and in danger of being destroyed by one very, very nasty woman.  Prue and Curtis are soon separated and go on parallel adventures inside the IW, and both have to figure out who is friend, who is foe, and with whom they can forge alliances in their efforts to find Mac and bring him safely home.

The most obvious comparison is to C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, though Wildwood feels contemporary and is certainly a lot more fun.

Written as the first book of a trilogy, Wildwood is targeted toward children ages 9 and up.  Those on the younger end should be forewarned that Wildwood is 560 pages in length, uses a substantial vocabulary, and generally gets off to a slow start.

For those who forge ahead, the trip is extremely worthwhile.  The pace quickens, the fantasy/adventure kicks into gear, the characters develop, and the story's finale is climactic and clever.  Prue and Curtis develop into fascinating protagonists with secrets not fully revealed; the book works equally well for girls and boys.

Wildwood will also have considerable crossover appeal; adults will enjoy the political satire and an eco-friendly, Pacific Northwest vibe.

Carson Ellis' ink and watercolor illustrations are elegant and fit well into the classic tenor of the book.  Besides contributing artwork to album covers and posters for The Decemberists among other things, Carson has illustrated a number of chapter books.

Though this is his first novel, Colin Meloy is no stranger to writing.  He has a degree in creative writing from the University of Montana and his songwriting for The Decemberists is oftentimes described as "literary."  To the extent that such things are genetic, Colin's sister, Maile Meloy, is an award-winning author whose first children's novel, The Apothecary, comes out this November.

Wildwood goes on sale August 30th.

Carson Ellis and Colin Meloy appear together as the keynote speakers at the 2011 AJC Decatur Book Festival on Friday, September 2nd.

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