Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Drawing and Storytelling Both

Reif Larsen’s novel The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet is one of the more inventive and imaginative books that you can find. For starters, the physical size of the book sets it apart. Most of the hardback books on my shelf are 6” x 9” but this book is 8” x 9.5 “. So right away you know that you are dealing with something out of the ordinary.

Our hero is Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet, otherwise known as T.S., age 12. T.S. is a prodigy who has an unusual and highly developed skill as a cartographer. The author takes advantage of this setup to include on almost every page an example of a map, an illustration, a doodle, a chart, etc taking full advantage of the oversize pages. It makes for a gorgeous, interesting and informative book totally apart from the story. The story too finds its way into the margins.

And the story has an interest. T.S., who lives in Montana, wins an award for his drawings from the Smithsonian Institution. But for reasons explored in the novel he decides that he must leave without telling his family and find his own way to Washington - which he does by hopping a freight train to Chicago. I found the tale of that part of his journey one of the more interesting parts of the story.

Larsen has also given us a bonus of a second novel within this novel. While T.S. is on his journey East, he is reading (as are we) the story of his great-great-grandmother Emma’s journey West. Nice symmetry.

For some reason that I can’t very well explain I was reminded as I was reading this book of The Phantom Tollbooth by Jules Feiffer. That’s a children’s book but it is also the tale of a boy on an adventurous journey.

This book is a visual delight and brimming with facts. Get a hold (literally) of a copy and read it soon. The author will be appearing in Pt Reyes on July 20th. Other appearances and information are listed on his website. Check out the website if only for pulling the rope!

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