Meloy, the lead singer of the band the Decemberists, delves into middle-grade fiction with a story that pairs classic adventure novel tropes with cool, disaffected prose. The book opens as 12-year-old Prue McKeel loses her baby brother to a murder of crows, and sets off to rescue him from the Impassable Wilderness, a strange country alongside Portland, Ore., (where the actual Forest Park lies). Her classmate Curtis tags along, and the two are soon separated. Prue takes refuge with the postmaster in his delivery van, while Curtis is captured, then suddenly made an officer in an army of talking coyotes led by the beautiful and intimidating Dowager Governess. It becomes apparent that Prue and Curtis have landed on opposite sides in a war—and neither side may be right. Without a good side to cheer for (disappointments and betrayals abound), the story lacks a strong emotional center, and its preoccupations with bureaucracy, protocol, and gray-shaded moral dilemmas, coupled with the book's length, make this slow going. Ellis's spot art, not all seen by PW, is characteristically crisp and formal, further lending the story a detached quality. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/18/2011 Release date: 08/01/2011 Genre: Children's
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