Wildwood, book one in The Wildwood Chronicles, written by Colin Meloy (singer/songwriter for the Decemberists) and illustrated by Carson Ellis is delightfully complex. Billed as a children’s fantasy novel, Wildwood certainly delivers in both imagination and childhood whimsy. Meloy’s startlingly emotional plot and surprising eruptions of frank violence, however, create a compelling story for any adult reader.
Any adult reader who tolerates talking animals, that is.
Based in Portland, the story centers around an Impassable Wilderness where heroes Prue and Curtis must face battling armies of hipster-fashioned-ruffians and uniformed coyotes to save Prue’s baby brother, Mac, from the crows that kidnapped him. As the main characters are twelve and most of the supporting cast isn’t human, a certain level of suspended reality is necessary for Wildwood. For me that only adds to its charm and success.
Wildwood was a refreshing break from academic reading and historical fiction. It was also a good reminder to never stop reading children’s books. Much like Pixar movies, books for kids are written by adults and often contain a whirlwind of good storytelling for even the most adultish readers. If you’ve already flown so far away from Neverland that you simply abhor the idea of a mystical world where plucky tweens can save the day, I offer my sympathy. How mundane a life must you lead? Albert Einstein himself said, “logic will only take you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere.”
I propose that children’s novels are the lifeblood of imagination. It is with our first stories – whether they be super hero comic books, swashbuckling pirates, talking woodland creatures or princesses and knights in shining armor – that we learn creativity. We realize the potential of our own minds to create vast worlds full of complex and unique characters.
Aside from all the brain-enhancing riches of children’s books, their most important characteristic is that they’re fun. Books like Wildwood have no rules. There are no historical documents of which to keep track and the authors aren’t chained by the scientific reality we can all find so cumbersome. Rather, novels for kids offer the best kind of escape a book can provide: a truly fantastic place where anything is possible.
I ask you, who is ever too old for that?
Check out the Wildwood Website where you can meet the authors and buy the books!