What You Need to Know:|
• A brave young girl and her friend enter a mysterious new world to rescue her little brother.
• Battles are fought, weapons are used and people and animals die in this story.
• The main character’s parents explain the troubles they had when trying to conceive a baby and the unconventional
bargain they made in order to have her.
• There are challenging words like desiccated, melee, pious supplication, eschewing, sigil, and rune.
• The author is the singer for the band, The Decemberists.
Imagine an elaborate world with talking birds and animals, political unrest, and an evil Governess ready to destroy everything and everyone. Now imagine it exists down the street and in plain sight, hidden only by trees and a label on a map which reads “Impassable Wilderness”. That’s pretty much what twelve year-old Prue discovers in this tale about bravery, loyalty and making choices. Prue had always heeded her parents’ warning and had never ventured across the river to the “Impassable Wilderness” until the day a “murder” of crows appears out of nowhere and sweeps Mac, her brother, off into that wooded area. When Prue decides to go after them to rescue Mac, she, and her unexpected companion, Curtis, find themselves in a society on the verge of chaos. As they immerse themselves into this culture, they also discover who they really are and what they’re capable of doing.
Prue is a strong female character that doesn’t give up even in the face of adversity. Curtis, a lonely boy who doesn’t seem to fit in, follows Prue because he wants them to be a “team”. He starts off seeming weak, but when thrust into dire circumstances he manages to find his inner strength and confidence. There are tons of details about the different communities that make up South Wood, North Wood, Wildwood, and the Avian Principality. Readers learn about the rulers, which include a Governess, a bandit, an owl and a mystic, and the inhabitants, which are made up of animals that talk, coyote soldiers and people who communicate with plants and trees. The conflicts in the story are very serious; sides are chosen, allies are formed and the battles result in many deaths.
A magical periphery was supposed to have kept outsiders away, so why were Prue and Curtis able to cross the barrier? Apparently, they’re both "half-breeds", which means that they both have some connection to the Woods. In Prue’s case, when her parents had difficulty having a child, made a deal with the Governess to give up their second-born child if only they could have a first. In Curtis’ case, it is less clear. Although it is long, the story does move quickly for the most part. The words flow smoothly and it is easy to read, although you might want to keep a dictionary nearby for some of the more challenging vocabulary words. Curtis and Prue go in different directions from the time they enter the woods so the story flips back and forth between their parallel adventures. Readers just need to be able to stay on top of when the story is switching to the next character. Those who enjoyed the illustrations in The Mysterious Benedict Society will recognize the fine work of Carson Ellis. Her terrific drawings will engage readers as they bring the story to life.
2011, 560 pages
Character/Values, Fantasy, Government, Self-Awareness/Discovery, Talking Animals, War
• Why does the Governess wish to cause such destruction?
• Why do the coyotes follow the Governess?
• Who should be the new leader of South Wood – Owl Rex? The Governess? Lars Svik? Iphigenia?
• Is Prue brave? What are some examples of her bravery?
• Did any of the political parties behave admirably? How? What were their flaws?
• How do you feel about the bargain that Prue’s parents made in order to conceive a child?
• Does Curtis turn out to be the type of person that you expected? If not, why not?
• Why did Curtis choose to become a bandit? Would you have made the same choice? Why or why not?
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