We’ve got a right old beauty for you today: an early middle grade, art-fest, epic-quest beauty chock full of original characters that you will just want to cuddle (or run away from…depending). Today’s book is also a Top Book of 2016 pick for its stunning visual appeal and gorgeous presentation. So what is today’s book?
It’s Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce, which we received gratefully from Simon & Schuster Australia for review. I won’t keep you in suspense any longer though – here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Can a beloved but lost stuffed rabbit save himself and other Losts from becoming the most feared designation of all: The Forgotten? Find out in this epic quest from the author of The Guardians series and the creative force behind The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
Ollie is a favorite. Of all the toys in Billy’s home, the stuffed rabbit takes top rank: everywhere Billy goes, so goes Ollie. But being a favorite is more than a privilege—it’s also fraught with danger. Because of Zozo.
Zozo has never been a favorite. An amusement park prize who was never chosen, Zozo has grown so bitter that, when the amusement park closes, he seeks revenge on every toy lucky enough to be a favorite. He wants them all to become The Lost, and even better, Forgotten.
When Billy accidentally leaves Ollie under the table at a wedding, Ollie finds himself on an unplanned adventure, kidnapped by the nefarious Zozo and his gang of creeps and faced with the momentous task of saving not only himself, but all the other stuffies who are “lost” as well…
With nods to Toy Story and Knuffle Bunny, but with that insoucient joie de vivre that is all William Joyce’s and Moonbot’s own, here’s a look at what REALLY goes on with your stuffed animals when the lights are out.
We had our collective eye on this from the moment we saw the cover and read the blurb, but we were unprepared for the incredible thud of loveliness when this hardback treasure landed on the doormat. Just to give you an idea of the gasp-worthiness of this book’s presentation, here’s a taster:
Pretty impressive, no? One of the biggest pleasures of the reading experience of Ollie’s Odyssey is the tactile nature of the book itself – it’s satisfyingly heavy, the pages are tinted with a slight sepia tone and those eye-popping illustrations are not rationed out but appear regularly every few pages. There are even a couple of double page spreads that take things to the next level.
Just from flicking through the illustrations, it’s obvious that the book contains some highly original characters. Reminiscent of Jim Henson’s original characters in films like the Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, Joyce has pulled out all the stops in exploring the dark underbelly of children’s imaginations, while trusting that the overall courage and warmth of the main characters will keep his young readers on the right side of the “frights” divide. Besides, all the best stories push the reader a little bit in the scares department, don’t you think? We especially loved the junkyard characters as they reminded us strongly of a more innocent version of the creations in Garry Kilworth’s Attica, one of our favourite books. There’s an enormous amount to be said for taking a risk with inanimate objects as characters and plumbing the theme of forgotten, lost and useless entities. Something about these kind of characters certainly fires our imaginations and generally leads to the characters taking on lives of their own in our heads.
Ollie is possibly the most adorable original character we’ve seen in a while, a teddy-bunny with his own dialect that has grown out of being the favourite toy of a young lad from birth to kid-hood. Despite being a “homemade”, kid’s will definitely see their own favourite toy reflected in Ollie and will no doubt cheer him along as he takes on a seemingly insurmountable quest to get back to his boy. There will be obvious comparisons made between this book and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo, both for the presentation and the content. Ollie’s story is a bit simpler and less heart-breakingly emotional than Edward’s though (from what I can remember of Edward’s story anyway – it’s been a while since I’ve read that one), which makes it a great choice for a read-aloud or read-together for those just moving into the middle grade age bracket.
Mad Martha was so enamoured of Ollie that she couldn’t resist whipping up a pocket-sized Ollie to join us on the shelf. Ours doesn’t contain the contentious bell-heart, but will be a cherished Shelf-denizen nonetheless:
I would definitely recommend getting your dexterous human hands on Ollie’s Odyssey. Apart from the fact that it would make a jaw-dropping gift for some lucky mini-fleshing, Ollie is a character that deserves a place on your shelf.
Until next time,