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TOBY ALONE by Timothée de Fombelle Kirkus Star


by Timothée de Fombelle & illustrated by François Place & translated by Sarah Ardizzone

Age Range: 10 & up

Pub Date: March 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4181-8
Publisher: Candlewick

An adventurous fable stars a miniscule hero facing massive ordeals. Toby may be not quite 13 years old and only one-and-a-half millimeters tall, but he has made a lot of enemies. When his scientist father declares that the Tree their people call “home” is not only alive but also endangered by their civilization, the whole family is exiled, then arrested, then sentenced to death. Now Toby is on the run from an entire world that sees him as a threat to their way of life. The obvious ecological allegory, while never heavy-handed, remains the thread weaving together lengthy flashbacks, asides and foreshadowing into a twining plot, featuring dozens of swiftly sketched, memorably idiosyncratic characters. The narrative voice dances on the razor’s edge between fey and twee, gliding effortlessly from grotesque farce to sly satire to nail-biting suspense to thrilling escapes, shocking violence and heartbreaking betrayal, while Place’s delicate pen-and-ink doodles offer marginal commentary. While abrupt, the conclusion provides both a satisfying culmination to Toby’s character arc and an edge-of-the-seat cliffhanger for the promised sequel. Witty, original and devastatingly entertaining. (Fantasy. 10 & up)