cover image Osmo Unknown and the Eightpenny Woods

Osmo Unknown and the Eightpenny Woods

Catherynne M. Valente, illus. by Lauren Myers. S&S/McElderry, $17.99 (416p) ISB

Twining familiar folk and myth elements with an arch, quippy voice that welcomes the reader as co-conspirator, Valente (The Glass Town Game) conjures an underworld odyssey that “must be kept secret.” For countless decades after a Forest and Valley fall in love, then quarrel, the human inhabitants of Littlebridge village and the forest-dwelling Quidnunx have avoided deadly conflict through a tenuous treaty. But years after the Quidnunx have begun to fade into legend, the hunter mother of hazel-eyed, black-haired Osmo Unknown, 13, unwittingly breaks the treaty by killing a Quidnunk; as a result, Osmo is given to the forest as bridegroom to the dead being’s ghost. Journeying through the Quidnunk afterlife in the grudging company of an acerbic skunk/badger/wombat and a defiantly lonesome, copper-scaled girl/pangolin, Osmo uncovers the roots of enmity in the region while trying to restore peace. Wordplay-dense prose and a languid pace underpin a singular, if self-aware, world filled with memorable chimeric creations exploring the impact of generational trauma. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Agent: Howard Morhaim, Howard Morhaim Literary. (Apr.)