Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Toby Alone

Book talk: When you are only one and a half millimeters tall, a tree can seem like the whole world, and that world is a dangerous place.  Ants, weevils, birds, and even rain drops can pose a big threat.  But the world is even more dangerous for thirteen-year-old Toby who suddenly finds himself the subject of a massive manhunt.  A whole army of big muscled and small-brained crooks are out looking for him, and with his parents held hostage and his friends turning on him, he quickly finds himself alone.  But Toby's not the only one in danger: with organized criminals taking over the tree, exploiting all its resources and silencing all the opposition, the tree itself is in danger, and all who live in it.  How can Toby save the tree and its people when most of them are trying to kill him?  It's a big responsibility for such a small boy, especially one who's all alone.

Rocks my socks:  The world Fombelle creates is delightfully creative and entertaining.  Just imagining the world as it would appear to someone one and a half millimeters tall is a refreshing lesson in perspective.  Toby is constantly getting himself into scrapes that seem almost absurd from our lofty stature, but Toby's bravery and ingenuity in getting back to safety won me over.  There is also a cast full of wonderful characters, including Toby's parents.  It was nice to see a story where a kid actually has adults he can rely on and look up to, and yet due to the fact of their being held hostage we still get to see Toby trying to survive on his own.  I like the themes it weaves in of sustainability and doing the right thing in the face of danger and prejudice.

Rocks in my socks: Even though the book is full of action the tone of the book is almost one of detached amusement so that the pacing doesn't feel very fast.  When Toby got out of a scrape I often thought "How clever!" but I never thought "Phew, that was a close one!"  The book was very entertaining, but I read it over a week or so right before bed and I never had difficulty putting it down when the time came to go to sleep.

Every book its reader: I recommend it to fans of adventure grades 4th and up.  There's plenty to appeal to a wide range of readers because while the main narrative starts with Toby at 13, it ends with him at 15 and much of the story is spent in flashback to when he was younger.  While there is a lot of action, there's nothing too frightening in there, the only obstacle for younger readers would be its length.

Bonus Quote: "Words are the enemy of darkness.  If you choose to be their friend, they will help you out all your life...that was why people talked about being 'familiar' with a word or language.  They were like a family to you."

Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle, translated by Sarah Ardizzone, illustrated by Francois Place
Support your local independent bookstore and buy it through indiebound or check it out from your local library

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