cover image Toby Alone

Toby Alone

Timothee De Fombelle, , trans. by Sarah Ardizzone, illus. by François Place. . Candlewick, $16.99 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-4181-8

The impressive debut novel from French playwright de Fombelle deftly weaves mature political commentary, broad humor and some subtle satire into a thoroughly enjoyable adventure. The people of the Tree are two millimeters tall or less, but their society mimics ours. Industrialists keep digging holes, politicians play dirty games and scientists conduct research to discover the nature of the world in which they live. Toby Lolness, the son of a renowned scientist, is forced to become a fugitive when his father’s discoveries reveal the dangers presented by the continued development of the Tree. Toby’s story is revealed in flashbacks as he runs from the cronies of Joe Mitch, a builder who has rapidly become a political powerhouse. Mitch’s machinations have turned the Tree into a totalitarian society in which reading and writing are banned, and only Toby remains free to try to rescue his parents and bring down Mitch and his crew. It’s hard not to see some of the book’s antecedents—the Borrowers, the Littles, etc.—but de Fombelle has built a unique world with a fully developed social and political structure. Ages 9–up. (Mar.)