Saturday, May 18, 2013

far far away

"Hallå! it not a great day to be alive?", I LOVE FAIRY TALES!  and Folklore.  Like...I liked Mythology so much I wanted to be a Classics major.  Which I was...for a year.  Then I realized I liked the stories more than the history (apologies to my Roman History professor for spending the last half of the semester blatantly doing crossword puzzles during class)- and switched to English.

So...there may be a few fairy tale reviews on this blog.  Some may be based on classics, some may be completely original, but they will most definitely be on here.

far far away by Tom McNeal (published by Knopf Books for Young Readers) had me at "enchanted cake."  It is the story of Jeremy Johnson Johnson, his friend Ginger, and the ghost of Jacob Grimm, all in the small town of Never Better.   Jeremy is our protagonist, a boy for whom nothing seems to go quite right.  His mother ran away with another man, and his father hasn't left his room for years. Even better- he is the only person who can hear the ghost of Jacob Grimm (who has taken to being his...Jiminy Cricket of sorts :D).  

The Swedish bakery in town, run by a dead-ringer for Santa Claus, sells Prinsesstårta, which is rumored to be bewitched, and makes a person fall in love with the first person he or she sees- one can guess where this leads with Ginger and Jeremy.  I do not want to spoil anything, but will say I was riveted- the story takes a deliciously twisted turn, and from there, the page turning does not stop.

Our ghastly narrator weaves a beautiful tale, with a voice (I imagine) reminiscent of Jim Henson's Storyteller TV series (which I've watched more times than I should probably admit).

As I opened the book, I was instantly drawn in by a macabre, woodcut illustration of a child being taken from his crib by death.  "This is going to be good!" I thought.  I was not disappointed.  Because of our narrator's observational abilities, I was reminded of the small town and inhabitants in J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy- however, this book left me with a less...hopeless feeling.

I'm a sucker for words and languages and the power they hold.  I loved the vocabulary in far far away, and even more so the pops of German, Swedish, and French.  I got excited at the use of "remuneration" and couldn't wait to see what was coming next!  It was like an etymological Christmas!

Then!  Oh, and then, there was the incredible fairy tale aspect.  Or rather, storytelling.  Stories of both fantasy and reality, "words on pages and the world as we know it."  And because of the Grimm aspect, mention of the more obscure tales ("Faithful John" is one of my favorites!) found me looking around my living room, smiling knowingly- as if I shared this secret with the author and our good friend Jacob.  And gained strange looks from my husband *shrug*.

I found it fantastical, enchanting, was tough to put down!  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys storytelling, language, creepiness, and suspense.

ARC courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House- due out June 2013.

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