Monday, December 18, 2006

Review: Barkbelly

Barkbelly is a book I've had on my to-read pile for six months. It's a book I know I'd love, but something always interfered, most recently The Cybils (for which I'm on the Middle Grade [non-fantasy] panel). That's why, when my mother volunteered to review books for this site, Barkbelly was the first book I gave her. Here is her review:

This book was reviewed by Alice Herold

Who can turn into a wooden boy and have many fanciful adventures?
a. Pinocchio
b. The Gingerbread Boy
c. Barkbelly

The correct answer is "C." Barkbelly by Cat Weatherill has the feel of an on-going bedtime story geared for juveniles, ages 8-14. The illustrations were drawn by Peter Brown who captured my mental image of Barkbelly perfectly.

Barkbelly is the name of the wooden boy who hatched from an egg when it was thrown into a fire. He has so many adventures the story takes on a dream-like (or nightmarish) quality. During a game of Bull Run at school, Barkbelly hit Pan Evans, killed him, and was forced to run away. He ran for seven days and nights. He finds work as a Stir Boy in a jam factory (a wooden boy can stir tirelessly), joins a circus (as a Cannonball who can't get hurt when he falls), works on a ship (repairing sails, climbing ropes) and travels to an island (Ashenspeak) to seek his real family.

The story is completely fresh and original. The author uses words such as Pumbleditcher, Log Worthing, Tythingtown, and Freckle Flannagan. Besides made-up words, she uses rich vocabulary (unfathomable, flummoxed, and extraction).

I enjoyed this book and am eager to seek if my 8-14 year old friends will feel the same way.