“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”
[J. K. Rowling]
When I opened to the first page of Colin Meloy’s Wildwood, I knew an adventure was about to take place! The first sentence alone emits so much curiosity that the reader grips the edges of the book as a story filled with fabulous fantasy, wondrous words, and imaginative illustrations wraps anyone who opens its fairy tale pages in an exhilarating embrace!
“How five crows managed to lift a twenty-pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries.”
This middle grade book had this twenty-something-year-old grinning from ear to ear in my favourite Chicago coffee shoppe. The story unfolds as a usual fantasy book does: a young girl is faced with a life changing challenge and seeks to overcome it! Junior high student, and Portlander, Prue McKeel, had a typical teenage life. She lived with her parents and her baby brother, Mac.
One run-of-the-mill morning while Prue was in charge of watching Mac, a murder of crows swooped down around the toddler, lifted him up into the air and carried him off to the worst possible place: The Impassable Wilderness! Filled with big sister bravery, Prue dares to go where no Portlander has dared to go before, into the seemingly uninhabitable woods at the end of the city.
Growing up reading C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series I was pleasantly greeted by nostalgic thematics as Prue, followed by her classmate, Curtis, enter the Impassable Wilderness only to discover an enchanted world filled with Coyote Soldiers, Aviary Royalty, Bandit Kings, a Sinister Governess, and Plantbending Magic.
Wildwood presents this spellbound story with the same vibe as an old fairy tale. Young children may seem a little nervous reading about crow kidnappers and dark magic. I believe this book would make a great read aloud or bonding time for children eight and up!
One purpose I would recommend reading this book together and aloud is obtain the sensation of each whimsical word rolling off the tongue. Colin Meloy’s vibrant vocabulary is showcased even in the first chapter! Phrases such as “hefting a lukewarm mug,” “wooly mass of a knitting project of unknown determination,” and “amoeba of yarn” are incantations Meloy relinquishes to enrich a typical Saturday morning.
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”
Wildwood is a word-lover’s best friend! When you pick this book up from your local bookstore or library, I dare you not to smile as you read the second paragraph in chapter one! Words are a tool to never be used lightly, and Meloy is a master of word working! If you do end up reading this book aloud with a child or the children in your life, one fun, expansive activity you could try is to write down each word that you enjoy. These words can be ones that are new, that are fun to say, and also words that you would like to use more!
Or you can play word search! Here are some of my favourite vocables from the book, see if you can find them on your read through:
(This list is just a mere sample of the immense language used in this novel. I could go on, but I would love to read your favourite Wildwood words in the comment section of this post!)
Not only is this book stocked with a lush list of vocab, the illustrations by Carson Ellis illuminate this tale with watercolour and inky images that invite observers to dwell on each pages just a little bit longer to take in all the magical markings.
With Meloy’s wizardly words and Ellis’ stimulating prints, Wildwood is a book that is not put down easily! Although its size may been intimidating to busy book-readers, do not fret! Each page flows into vivid mental pictures with appreciable pace!
I have not read the second book in the series, but due to my astronomical adoration for the first book, I know I will be swept back into this fictional world and welcome it with open arms!
If you have read this book or both books in the series, let me know what you think in the comments (But please, no spoilers, since I have not read the second one yet!)
Also, if you would like to play my word search game, please feel free to add your own Wildwood words to the comment section!
For now, I leave you with this quote about Prue’s own love for words, particularly, bird names:
“…Whispering their fantastic, exoctic names like quiet incantations: the western tanager. The whip-poor-will. Vaux’s swift. The names conjured the images of lofty climes and faraway places, of quiet prairie downs and misty treetop aeries.”
Your Wild Word Seeking Friend,