Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, February 8, 2016

Honoring A Pact

In many cultures animals were and still are integral to pourquoi tales, legends, myths and religious beliefs.  It was believed in earlier times animals moved among humans talking with them.  It's much harder now to understand what they are trying to tell us.  We must be keen and quiet observers.

Many years ago in the solitude of several summer days I journeyed to a world fashioned by the words of Brian Jacques in his Redwall series.  I still remember how captivated I was by those mice and the other animals populating their lives.  Books like Jacques' titles alter your perspective.  (I have since made sure every home of mine is mouse-proof.  I can't bear the thought of harming one.)

Imagine my happiness at reading a dedication in one of my most recently read books:

To Brian Jacques, whose books made me a reader,
and to Mr. Xanders, who made me read them.

This first book in a new series, The Wild Ones (Philomel Books an imprint of Penguin Group (USA), August 25, 2015), written by C. Alexander London takes me back to those summer days in an extraordinary new adventure with a young raccoon as the central figure.  It's a doorway into a realm of wondrous possibilities.

Of all the alleys beneath the Slivered Sky where the animals of fur and feather make themselves at home, Ankle Snap Alley was the most notorious.  It was known far and wide as a den of thieves and crooks and cheats.  In Ankle Snap Alley, honest folk were rare as roses in winter, and a decent house pet from a good home would never set foot in such a garbage heap.

In the dead of night two animals, part of the crew The Flealess, house-dwellers, meet to carry out a treacherous plan.  A miniature greyhound, Titus, and an orange and white cat, Sixclaw, wearing a purple collar with a tiny bell, have murder on their minds.  A raccoon couple has acquired the means to locate the Bone of Contention, the proof of an ancient pact.  More than seven hundred and seven seasons ago a promise of peace was made giving the Wild Ones full rights to live without fear in Ankle Snap Alley.

After tragedy strikes Kit's warren in Big Sky, he finds himself running for his life toward an uncertain future in the city of Slivered Sky and Ankle Snap Alley.  An encounter with a pickpocket and two con-artist raccoons has him seeking help from other creatures who may or may not be trustworthy.  Barely escaping with his life a third time, he, his new friend Eeni, an albino rat, and his uncle, Riky Two Rings, try to formulate a plan.  Before they can, a clear, soft ringing announces the arrival of a terrible enemy.

Rescued by Martyn and his followers, the young raccoon and his rat friend, are led to a frightening meeting.  An appointment made generations ago must be kept.  Here Kit learns of a riddle.  As he leaves he finds himself and his friends in a treacherous predicament.  A life and death bargain is forged.

Beneath the city in the sewers Kit uses all his newly acquired wiles to persuade an alligator with an appetite to let him complete his search in order to save the Wild Ones.  Regardless of all Kit's achievements, a turncoat turns the tide and a battle still needs to be won.  As tensions build one thing becomes perfectly clear, the least shall lead and all need to work in tandem or all is lost.

Within four parts, thirty chapters and two hundred forty-one pages, you will be left breathless over and over again as the adventure plays out like a roller coaster ride.  C. Alexander London has artfully and beautifully used language to make us wish we could be part of Big Sky and Slivered Sky.  The personalities of his characters are splendidly full of life; villains and heroes alike.  The names, Azban, the first raccoon, Brutus, Duke of Dogs, the Rabid Rascals, the Blacktail Brothers, and Gayle the alligator are only a few.

Captivating chapters are linked by openings and closings which compel you to turn pages as quickly as possible.  Through indicative dialogue and vivid, detailed descriptions of place, Ankle Snap Alley replaces your immediate surroundings.   The comments and thoughts of the animals are as valid as if uttered by humans with all the wisdom or connivery of the ages.  Here are a few of my many, many marked passages.

"I'm not a mouse," Kit tried to give him the pamphlet back, but the mouse didn't take it.
"We are all mice in the eyes of history," the mouse said.
"We are all of one claw if you scratch back far enough. This is why history must be remembered! This is what makes mice believe.  Only history will show us the way to the future!"

Sometimes telling a story hurt worse than living it, but sometimes telling the stories that hurt the most was the only way to survive.

All eyes shifted from Kit to the turtle, whose pale green face looked paler and greener than ever.  After a pause that felt as long as winter and twice as cold, the turtle spoke.
"Brave words for such a young lad," he said suddenly speaking as fast as anyone.  His whole slow-talking thing was just an act that fell away when he got mad. "I'll need some proof you can do what you say."
"I told you what the Rat King said," Kit explained.
"Words ain't much good as proof," said the turtle.
"Words are cheap as dirt and twice as useless.  Anyone can use words to say anything they want.  But deeds, Kit. Deeds are a rare thing.  ...

"Don't scare the lad, my brother," Shane replied with a sarcastic smile. "Alligators can smell fear.  You aren't afraid of giant teeth that lurk below the sewer filth, are you, Kit?  You aren't afraid of massive jaws and terrible fangs, are you, you mole-faced tick-for-brains?

C. Alexander London is a marvelous wordsmith enveloping his readers with a timeless story.  The Wild Ones touches on what composes a family and a community and how an individual regardless of size or age can make change possible when it looks hopeless.  Having read portions of this title repeatedly, I highly recommend this title.  It makes me wish when I walk out on my deck tomorrow the magpies will greet me with a cheery hello and a request for water or the deer will thank me for their latest meal on my newly planted flowers and bushes.

To discover more about C. Alexander London please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  At Scholastic's Ambassador for School Libraries John Schumacher's blog Watch. Connect. Read. visit the post for the cover reveal and more words by the book's publisher.  John also links to the first guest post by London on his blog.  Be sure to read the Publishers Weekly article, London's 'The Wild Ones' Inspired by Redwall.  You absolutely need to stop by this Nerdy Book Club post, C. Alexander London Shares the Illustrations for The Wild Ones .They are drawn by the gifted Levi Pinfold.  Enjoy the videos!

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