Reviews for Wildwood


Booklist Reviews 2011 July #1
*Starred Review* If you like stories in which spunky kids emerge from secret tunnels only to be greeted by smartly outfitted badgers operating rickshaws, this is your book. Meloy's debut is the kind of delicate, elaborate fantasy that is so well versed in classic Narnian tropes that it is destined to be enthusiastically embraced. After her baby brother is abducted by crows, 12-year-old Prue is compelled to enter the Impassable Wilderness--an ominous forest just outside of Portland, Oregon. Although Prue is initially joined by her classmate Curtis, the kids are soon split up as they become embroiled in a war between stuffy bureaucrats, bandit separatists, militant birds, and the evil Dowager Governess. The two leads are fairly boilerplate, and some readers may find the constant panoply of helpful, uniformed animals (most likely speaking in English accents) too precious. These elements, though, are more than balanced by flashes of darkness--blood sacrifices, death in battle, and more--that would make the Brothers Grimm proud. Meloy, best known as the literate lead singer of the Decemberists, clearly knows that weird vocabulary is part of the genre's fun and has no qualms dropping 10-dollar words like retinue and totemic. Frequent, droll illustrations further solidify Wildwood as a uniquely alive place--right down to the stubborn blackberries and vengeful ivy. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Booklist Reviews 2012 August #1
To follow his familiar but pleasurable fantasy epic Wildwood (2011), where else did Meloy have to go but down (and by that we mean underground)? Twelve-year-old Prue is still recovering from her adventure into the magical forest outside Portland, Oregon, when a new danger brings her back to travel alongside her bandit-in-training pal, Curtis. Though Meloy is tireless when it comes to whimsical details, advanced wordplay, and bone-dry humor, the duo's journey feels much as it did in the first volume. Happily, an intertwined plotline yields dividends: two sisters are dropped off by their parents at the Joffrey Unthank Home for Wayward Youth, a steampunkish secret sweatshop run by a titan of industry obsessed with using the children to gain entry into the Impassable Wilderness. Soon the sisters are below Wildwood, where an army of moles mistake them for demigods. Naturally the plots intersect; naturally there's an inspirational uprising; and naturally this is a light-handed delight for kids who like their animal wars to break occasionally for a cup of mint tea. Bonus: Ellis' 84 full-page and spot illustrations are as delicate and adorable as before. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Movie rights to the best-selling Wildwood were snapped up quickly, and as long as Meloy's band, The Decemberists, remains in the spotlight, so will awareness of this series. Big author tour planned, too. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
When her baby brother is carried by crows into the Impassable Wilderness, plucky twelve-year-old Prue follows--and Prue's friend Colin follows her. Prue and Colin are soon separated, then both are entangled in ongoing hostilities between bandits, forest creatures, and the witchy Dowager Governess. Meloy's witty prose and Ellis's nuanced black-and-white illustrations create an alluring arboreal society.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
Reunited, Prue and bandit-in-training Curtis set out to restore Wildwood's true heir. Meanwhile, an avaricious entrepreneur forces a group of "Unadoptable" children to breach Wildwood's magical boundary. Wry humor, suspense, and distinctive fantasy elements make this lengthy novel a quick read. Ellis's detailed illustrations (both black-and-white spot art and color full-page tableaux) capture the human and animal characters in all their quirky glory.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 April #2

Fans of Meloy's indie-rock band, The Decemberists, will recognize themes running through his engaging debut celebrating the struggle of ordinary folk (including plants and animals) to throw off tyranny and shape their destinies.

When her baby brother is carried off by crows to the Impassable Wilderness at the heart of Portland, Ore., stubbornly courageous Prue McKeel, 12, sets out to reclaim him, accompanied by annoying schoolfellow and class pariah Curtis Mehlberg. Their quest soon becomes entangled with longstanding conflicts among residents of this magical wilderness, which harbors secrets both strange (talking animals, sentient plants) and familiar (xenophobic mistrust, government red tape). Overcoming a slow start, the story gains momentum when Prue and Curtis enter the woods, encountering its vividly portrayed denizens, human and otherwise. Captured by the mysterious Dowager Governess, Curtis must choose sides in a confusing conflict; either way, he'll need courage and ingenuity to survive. Prue's search leads through South Wood's impenetrable bureaucracy to North Wood, where mystics commune with nature. Gritty urban settings abound in contemporary fantasy (Holly Black, Neil Gaiman and China Miéville are exemplars). Faithfully recreating Portland's wild Forest Park, Meloy gives his world a uniquely Pacific Northwest spin. Illustrations by Ellis, Meloy's wife, bring forest and inhabitants to gently whimsical life.

A satisfying blend of fantasy, adventure story, eco-fable and political satire with broad appeal; especially recommended for preteen boys. (Fantasy. 10 & up)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 July #1

Fans of Meloy's indie-rock band, The Decemberists, will recognize themes running through his engaging debut celebrating the struggle of ordinary folk (including plants and animals) to throw off tyranny and shape their destinies.

When her baby brother is carried off by crows to the Impassable Wilderness at the heart of Portland, Ore., stubbornly courageous Prue McKeel, 12, sets out to reclaim him, accompanied by annoying schoolfellow and class pariah Curtis Mehlberg. Their quest soon becomes entangled with longstanding conflicts among residents of this magical wilderness, which harbors secrets both strange (talking animals, sentient plants) and familiar (xenophobic mistrust, government red tape). Overcoming a slow start, the story gains momentum when Prue and Curtis enter the woods, encountering its vividly portrayed denizens, human and otherwise. Captured by the mysterious Dowager Governess, Curtis must choose sides in a confusing conflict; either way, he'll need courage and ingenuity to survive. Prue's search leads through South Wood's impenetrable bureaucracy to North Wood, where mystics commune with nature. Gritty urban settings abound in contemporary fantasy (Holly Black, Neil Gaiman and China Miéville are exemplars). Faithfully recreating Portland's wild Forest Park, Meloy gives his world a uniquely Pacific Northwest spin. Illustrations by Ellis, Meloy's wife, bring forest and inhabitants to gently whimsical life.

A satisfying blend of fantasy, adventure story, eco-fable and political satire with broad appeal; especially recommended for preteen boys. (Fantasy. 10 & up)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Kirkus Reviews 2012 August #2
Droll and ornate, elegiac and romantic--the sequel to Wildwood (2011) brings readers deeper into and under the pine-scented, magical world tantalizingly close to Portland, Ore. Prue is drawn back to Wildwood by herons who rescue her from a trio of terrifying shape-shifters, and there she is reunited with Curtis, who stayed to enjoy the exhilarating life of a bandit-in-training. Attacked at their secret hideout, the bandits vanish. Adrift, Curtis and Septimus the rat join Prue on a quest that takes them under Wildwood, a setting straight out of M.C. Escher with a hint of Hieronymous Bosch. In the Industrial Wastes above, Curtis' grieving parents search for him after parking his sisters at an orphanage. In this Dickensian institution, children labor to make machine parts, the owner dreams of extending his industrial nightmare into the Impassable Wilderness he sees but can't reach, and his partner, Desdemona, former B-movie actress in Ukraine, dreams of Hollywood glory. Indulging a free-range imagination, Meloy mulches his verdant wilderness with wildly eclectic cultural references--real (Macbeth, Moby-Dick) and un- (Tax Bracket magazine, Lego replicas of Soviet-era statues). The incomparable Ellis more than rises to the challenge--her sly, wistful, abundant illustrations provide an emotional through line. Reflecting on her Wildwood experience, Prue "learned to not consider the minutiae of things, but rather take each episode as it came." Take Prue's advice and enjoy the ride. (Fantasy. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 July #3

Meloy, the lead singer of the band the Decemberists, delves into middle-grade fiction with a story that pairs classic adventure novel tropes with cool, disaffected prose. The book opens as 12-year-old Prue McKeel loses her baby brother to a murder of crows, and sets off to rescue him from the Impassable Wilderness, a strange country alongside Portland, Ore., (where the actual Forest Park lies). Her classmate Curtis tags along, and the two are soon separated. Prue takes refuge with the postmaster in his delivery van, while Curtis is captured, then suddenly made an officer in an army of talking coyotes led by the beautiful and intimidating Dowager Governess. It becomes apparent that Prue and Curtis have landed on opposite sides in a war--and neither side may be right. Without a good side to cheer for (disappointments and betrayals abound), the story lacks a strong emotional center, and its preoccupations with bureaucracy, protocol, and gray-shaded moral dilemmas, coupled with the book's length, make this slow going. Ellis's spot art, not all seen by PW, is characteristically crisp and formal, further lending the story a detached quality. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 August

Gr 3-7--When 12-year-old Prue is entrusted with her baby brother for the day, the last thing she expects is that he will be abducted by a murder of crows and taken into the Impassible Wilderness across the river from her home in Portland, OR. Prue does the only thing that she can, which is to head across the railroad bridge to bring Mac back. She is followed by a schoolmate whom she reluctantly takes on as a partner. They soon discover that they are the only humans from the "Outside." Curtis is abducted by coyote soldiers, and Prue soon finds herself between warring factions--the Dowager Governess, who is marshaling her coyote troops in North Wood to take back her throne in Southwood, and the rest of Wildwood. Meloy deftly moves back and forth between Prue's attempts to get help and Curtis's adventures with the Governess, who is not what she initially seems, and uses the parallel stories to create a constant forward motion that will keep readers glued to the page. From its attention-grabbing opening to the final revelations of Prue's true relationship to Wildwood, this book provides an emotional experience. Meloy has an immediately recognizable verbal style and creates a fully realized fantasy world in what is essentially a Portland child's backyard. It is peopled with both animal and human characters with whom readers will identify and grow to love. Ellis's illustrations perfectly capture the original world and contribute to the feel of an instant timeless classic. Further adventures in Wildwood cannot come quickly enough.--Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO

[Page 112]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 November

Gr 5-8--In this sequel to Wildwood (HarperCollins, 2011), it becomes clear that Prue's and Curtis's adventures will span numerous volumes. Curtis stops his bandit training to rescue Prue from a black fox Kitsune assassin. Prue then abandons her halfhearted attempts to reassimilate into her family. Her friend, the Elder Mystic of the North Wood, believes unrest in the South Wood provisional government has placed all Wildwood in danger. She asks Prue to reestablish balance in the Forest and sends her some rather cryptic clues as to how to go about it. Prue and the unwilling Curtis end up in Wildwood's caverns where they receive help from the Mole City. Meanwhile, Curtis's sisters see glimpses of Wildwood when a cruel orphanage owner sends them into the Impassable Wilderness to try to unpeel its secrets. Meloy's declarative style combined with vivid imagery makes the descriptive passages jump out at readers. Ellis's illustrations evoke a neo-Currier and Ives style that works well with the forest setting. The numerous plot threads intimate a Dickensian approach to story management. There are almost too many things going on at once, and the book raises more questions than it answers. While not as compact as Trenton Lee Stuart's The Mysterious Benedict Society (Little, Brown, 2007), Meloy's offering is a match for its clever writing, and the numerous types of creatures in the wood will keep readers' attention as will the dramatic tension that fills every corner of this Empire Strikes Back-type sequel.--Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CT

[Page 112]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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VOYA Reviews 2011 August
Forest Park in Portland, Oregon, serves as the inspiration for this fantasy collaboration between writer/musician Colin Meloy and his illustrator wife, Carson Ellis. Twelve-year-old Prue, a budding ornithologist, is tasked with caring for her infant brother, Mac. She takes him to the playground, where much to her horror, a murder of crows descends and carries him off into the Impassable Wilderness. Afraid to reveal the truth to her parents, Prue returns home to stock up on essentials before bicycling off to search for Mac. Along the way, she encounters nerdy outcast classmate Curtis, who insists on accompanying her. Prue and Curtis find themselves in the country of Wildwood, where anthropomorphic animals co-exist with magic-touched humans. The pair becomes separated when coyote soldiers abduct Curtis. Prue, clearly an Outsider, must solicit help from various denizens of the forest world, including a human postmaster, a crown prince owl, equality-minded bandits, and mystics who communicate with plants. As the story continues, Prue and Curtis come to realize that they have the power to affect the very survival of Wildwood Fantasy lovers of all ages will be enthralled by fast-moving plot lines, evocative descriptions, and smart, snappy dialogue. Readers will find elements of themselves in Prue and Curtis, adolescents for whom the quest to find and rescue Mac is also a journey of self-discovery. The superbly imagined Dowager Governess claims a place at the table for classic, manipulative villains alongside C. S. Lewis's White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia stories and Phillip Pullman's Mrs. Coulter in the His Dark Materials series. Meloy smartly weaves realism and the otherworldly, building suspense and adding elements of surprise as the novel comes to a satisfying conclusion. Ellis's trademark detailed ink-and-gouache illustrations draw the reader deeper into this fully realized world. While Wildwood is the rare fantasy novel that acts as a stand-alone story, readers will be clamoring for the next installment in this proposed series.--Paula J. Gallagher 5Q 5P M J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

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