FIREBELLY by J.C. Michaels

FIREBELLY

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

An engaging and quirky view of philosophy from the perspective of an unlikely sage: the Oriental Firebelly Toad.

For those with a tolerance for easy whimsy, this philosopher's fantasy clad in YA garb makes existentialism–á la Heidegger or Sartre–go down easier than the masters ever made it. The text opens with a "Primer" each for children, teenagers, and adults; the reader is invited to choose one or all–fittingly so, as the concept of choice is a core component of Sartre’s constructs of purpose and meaning. The main story concerns the adventures of a malformed toad that goes from the pet store to live with first one little girl and then another. Parallel to his journey of self-discovery, the toad analyzes his fellow toads, his dreams of life outside captivity (he eschews being "wild" after he imagines exactly what it entails), and his thoughts regarding the human species. Amid the action, the toad muses upon the meanings of words–i.e., the difference between "wish" and "hope"–and the power of names and ideas to shape the world. A concluding section discusses the biology of the Firebelly Toad and the philosophical pillars of existentialism, the latter geared specifically toward Heidegger and Sartre. Written in straightforward prose, mostly silky smooth, it’s an easy read with few bobbles (e.g., "peeked" vs. “peaked”). For an extra treat, check out the fine hardcover edition ($50) stamped with deep-etched copper plates, hand-engraved brass dies, and 22k gold.

An earnest, lighthearted, and useful analysis of “being” in the world that applies to humans as well as amphibians.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-9726173-1-0
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online: