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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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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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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Library Media Connection Reviews 2012 March/April
This fantasy, the first in The Wildwood Chronicles, pays homage to earlier works, especially The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Rumpelstiltskin. The story begins when middle schooler Prue watches crows pick up her baby brother, Mac, and fly away into the Impassable Wilderness. As Prue searches, she is followed by a classmate, Curtis. Curtis and Prue are separated, and Curtis becomes the first to meet the Dowager Governess, Alexandra, who intends to feed Mac's blood to the ivy baby. Although she returns home alone, Prue doesn't give up. She goes back to the Wildwood to find them and discovers that she and her baby brother were created by magic. Characters in this fun read are animal and human; readers will meet guard dogs who can talk and coyote soldiers who serve the Dowager Governess. Dr. Audrey Irene Daigneault, Library Media Specialist, West Side Middle School, Groton, Connecticut [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.] RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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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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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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