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Review: ‘Down the Mysterly River’ by Bill Willingham

Review: ‘Down the Mysterly River’ by Bill Willingham post image

Title: Down the Mysterly River
Author: Bill Willingham
Genre: Middle grade fiction
Year: 2011
Acquired: Book Expo America
Rating: ★★★½☆

Summary from Indiebound

Max “the Wolf” is a top notch Boy Scout, an expert at orienteering and a master of being prepared. So it is a little odd that he suddenly finds himself, with no recollection of his immediate past, lost in an unfamiliar wood. Even odder still, he encounters a badger named Banderbrock, a black bear named Walden, and McTavish the Monster (who might also be an old barn cat)—all of whom talk—and who are as clueless as Max.

Before long, Max and his friends are on the run from a relentless group of hunters and their deadly hounds. Armed with powerful blue swords and known as the Blue Cutters, these hunters capture and change the very essence of their prey. For what purpose, Max can’t guess. But unless he can solve the mystery of the strange forested world he’s landed in, Max may find himself and his friends changed beyond recognition, lost in a lost world…

Review: I grabbed this book at BEA because I have a bit of an author crush on Bill Willingham and his Fables series of graphic novels. I don’t read a lot of middle grade/young adult fiction, but the idea of Down the Mysterly River reminded of a lot of what Willingham does in Fables — play around with stories we think we know and finding ways to explore them in new ways.

In this case, Willingham mashes together some slightly unfamiliar children’s stories into an adventure tale in a unfamiliar world. I read this one during the October Read-a-Thon and thought it was charming and perfect for reading in that setting.  Max is exactly the sort of precocious kid that I adore, plus there were talking animals and dastardly criminals and a mystery to solve. Willingham also isn’t afraid of letting bad things happen to characters (off the page, but still bad things), which I wasn’t expecting in a book for this age group.

I do wonder if it’ll even be possible for kids to figure out the central mystery of this book, given the source material that Willingham is working with. I wasn’t familiar with most of the stories, so I was well behind Max in figuring everything out. I don’t think that necessarily makes the book bad, just something I’m curious about.

Down the Mysterly River isn’t a life-changing book, but I was charmed by it and think it’s the kind of book I’d suggest for readers who enjoy smart and literary mystery adventure tales.

Other Reviews: Good Books and Good Wine |

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) November 10, 2011, 11:00 am

    I wonder if I would know the stories – maybe, since I’ve got a few years on you. You’ve made me curious about this book.

    • Kim November 10, 2011, 6:09 pm

      Maybe, I’m not actually sure on the time for when some of the stories are from. I think you might like this one!

  • Vasilly November 10, 2011, 8:13 pm

    I don’t I would know the stories but I’m definitely trying to get a copy of this. I’ve noticed that with Willingham or Gaiman, it’s best to just follow them through whatever story it is. ;-)

    • Kim November 13, 2011, 6:35 pm

      Absolutely. Willingham is so much fun. I love everything he’s written that I’ve read.

  • Cass November 18, 2011, 8:15 am

    Ooh, I have this book too but I haven’t read it yet. It sounds like a pleasantly cozy rea–and who am I to refuse any book featuring “dastardly” criminals? They’re the best kind.

    • Kim November 19, 2011, 9:35 am

      I do think it’s a cozy little book, definitely not too brain-stretching but still interesting enough that I couldn’t really predict where it was going. And honestly, the bad guys in the book are scary (at least, it’s really scary what they can do to people).