Saturday, May 10, 2008

Horns & Wrinkles...random thoughts

Horns & Wrinkles by Joseph Helgerson. I was really in the mood for a cute, fun story...and let me tell you this one truly fit the bill! It was utterly adorable! the first two sentences, I've already used the words "cute" and "adorable". This is quite funny, considering most of the characters in this book are anything but! Take for example, Jim Dandy Eel-Tongue, Biz Mossbottom, and Stump Fishfly, three river trolls. They are somewhat less than attractive with their speckled scales, stubby tails, webbed feet, and long claws, not to mention the stench they sport due in part to their river home and in part to their poor hygiene. And in addition to their physical lack of adorable-ness, they are not particularly loaded with fine character traits. No, politeness, honesty, helpfulness, none of these are high on their list of priorities. And yet, they grew on me. They really did.

And don't you just love their names? Lots of good names in this book, my favorites being Fancy Leechlicker, who doesn't really play a big part in the story other than the fact that she's married to Jim Dandy, and Bodacious Deepthink, the evil rock troll. Bodacious could really go far with a name like that, don't you think?

Anyway, on to the story. Claire, an 12-year-old girl, with an affinity for toads and turtles and the like, lives in a small town along the upper Mississippi River. Strange things seem to happen near the river. No one really likes to talk about these strange "rivery" things, but then again, everyone seems to have a story to tell. The book begins when Duke, Claire's cousin, dangles her by her ankles from an old bridge over the river. This is not unusual behavior for Duke. He's a bully through and through. Remember how I said that the river trolls grew on me...well, Duke never did. But Duke pays the price for his mean spiritedness. As he's dangling his younger cousin from the bridge, some of this river magic visits them in the form of an old lady. From a boat on the river, she saves Claire. And another bit of river magic lands upon Duke, changing his nose into a horn. And every time Duke lets loose with some bullying, his horn grows longer in a painful way.

The adventure is just beginning...Duke "befriends" the three river trolls, his parents are turned to stone, the river trolls search for fallen stars to save their own fathers, Duke continues with his physical transformation...

Eventually it is left to an unlikely foursome (Claire, the old lady, who is really a Blue Wing fairy, Stump, the river troll, and Reliable St. John, a cricket who is incapable of telling the truth) to save the day. As I said above, this is just a totally adorable little tale.

There was one passage I particularly loved. Perhaps because I found it so tempting to believe. Or maybe I really do believe it. Anyway, this occurs when Claire asks the old lady why she doesn't have a name...

"My name's gone into a spell," she said at last. "A spell that lets magic work along this stretch of river. If it wasn't for the spell, the magic folk around here would have all been drowned a century ago by these modern times."

"How can you be drowned by time?" I frowned.

"Very easily," she sighed, turning away from me to gaze out the window at the river. "A long while ago, magic worked anywhere in this world. Magic folk lived where they wanted, practiced magic as they like. Not at all like these days, when magic sputters and fizzes at best. Just try walking through a brick wall. You'll see what I mean. Today there's only a few enchanted pockets left here and there, protected by spells that shield them from the passing of time. We dare not stick a toe outside the spell protecting us or we freeze up worse than ice."

"Even in summer?"

"Especially in the summer. I'm talking of a different kind of cold than you're thinking of, my dear. Cold caused by time is a cold that you feel on the inside. More like loneliness than ice. And when any of us feels it, we can't help but burn ourselves up trying to keep warm. Usually we magic folk stay warm by migrating, like birds in the fall, but those of us along the river here have been left behind, stranded."

"How'd that happen?"

"Miscalculations," she said with a grim look that discouraged follow-up questions.

"But where do you migrate to?" I asked.

"Other worlds, where the time for magic is now."

I nodded slowly, thinking of those other worlds until a thought occurred to me.

"If you're like the birds, does that mean you come back in the spring?"

"Oh, yes," the old lady said, brightening. "That's what we're waiting for. Our spring, when magic will work all over this world again...."

Oh, don't you just wish their spring would arrive?!!

By the way, the art in this book...unbelievably charming! Yes, one of those books I bought because of the cover. Just a week or so ago, Carl featured the artist, Nicoletta Ceccoli, in his Friday Favorites post. Definitely worth checking out if you haven't already read it.

My only regret concerning this book was that I didn't read it aloud to the boys. I know they would love it...I can just hear Gray saying, "Just one more chapter." And then, "Just one more chapter." And again with, "Just one more chapter." (But I did tell Rich that it would be the perfect choice for his next read-aloud with the boys, after they finish A Series of Unfortunate Events.)

And finally, I haven't yet read any other reviews of this book, but if you've written one, please leave me a link in the comments and I'll be sure to add it here. Thanks.

Natasha at Maw Books
Deslily at Here, There, and Everywhere
Annie at Words by Annie


Anonymous said...

This looks like the perfect book for my daughter. She's a fairly fast reader, so I am always on the!

Anonymous said...

I have this book sitting right here next to me waiting for me to write up a review. I thought it was a fun book and I picked it up simply because I loved the illustrations.

Debi said...

J. Kaye,
If she enjoys fantasy, I would definitely recommend it for her! I enjoyed the heck out of it!

Debi said...

I remembered that you were reading this...and I can't wait to read your review!

chrisa511 said...

I'm fitting in some blog hopping today and this was the first post I saw :) I can't wait to read this one and your review seriously has me wanting to go out and just get it right now. I put this one on my wishlist before I even knew what it was about for the same reason as you...I liked the cover :p I didn't know that she did illustrations throughout the book! That's awesome! This sounds so cool...I have to go get it!

Debi said...

I was so thrilled to see you here this afternoon! I do hope that means you're getting a little relaxation can be so hard being at a hospital for days. Sure hope your dad's doing well today!

Definitely, definitely, definitely...go pick up this book! Like I said, it's just a totally fun little read!

DesLily said...

what a great review for me to read today!... I just finished Edward Tulane and am 3 chapters into Horns and Wrinkles!! I can already tell it's going to be enjoyable and this just made it better.

Debi said...

I'm so happy to hear you're reading this...I hope you enjoy it as much I did! Can't wait to hear what you think!

Ana S. said...

I so need to get this book! I wanted it for the illustrations alone, but I now I know that the story is also great. Thanks for the lovely review, Debi :)

Melody said...

Great review, Debi! I've to check out this book as well. :)

Eva said...

You've sold me on this one! I want to get it for my niece when she's a bit older. :)

Medbie said...

I noticed your review, when I posted my review on the A-Z challenge.

I loved it too. Great book! I had to give it a blanket recommendation to adults and children alike.

Wonderful, full review, by the way! If I hadn't already read it, I'd want to now. :D