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The Hound of Rowan: Book One of The Tapestry Paperback – September 23, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In a hidden alcove within Chicago's Art Institute, Max McDaniels discovers a faded tapestry. As he watches, the tapestry begins to glow; soon after, he receives an invitation to attend a private boarding school in New England. When he arrives at Rowan Academy, where young people with Potential are trained to fight an unnamed enemy, he and the other apprentices are housed in magically morphing rooms and assigned animal charges. Max is paired with the last lymrill in the world, a nocturnal creature with metallic quills. They train on the Course, where they experience different scenarios as they try to achieve a goal and move up levels as they progress. Meanwhile, apprentices and even some full-fledged agents are disappearing all over the world. This novel's sprawling, quirky boarding school has obvious parallels to Hogwarts, but Neff's storytelling boasts charms of its own, and U.S. readers may appreciate that this magical adventure, the first installment in the planned Tapestry series, takes place here rather than abroad. Tixier Herald, Diana --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Max’s intelligence and goodhearted nature give the story a solid emotional core even as the surprising twists and turns keep the pages turning. Neff’s first novel is sure to draw many new fans eager to see what happens next.”—VOYA
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Series: The Tapestry (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Yearling; Reprint edition (September 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375838953
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375838958
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.1 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (130 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #123,479 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

It's hard to write about one's self without being too cute or clever by half. When in doubt, keep it simple: here are a few insights into who I am and how I work. Ultimately, it's all about the words and pictures and how they come to be.

Today, I write books in Brooklyn, but I'm a Chicago boy at heart. In the late-1970s, at the age of four, I moved to the Chicago suburbs. My formative memories are generally pretty pleasant; a mishmash of baseball, bikes, and bad haircuts while I navigated the social labyrinth of public schools. As a history teacher, I now realize that my childhood was typical of an American kid growing up in the 1980s: middle child of divorced parents, microwaving fish sticks, and watching too much television.

Thankfully, it wasn't all fish sticks and TV. There were always books and I was a big reader. My parents were art historians and there was a lot of strange stuff to spark and stoke an inquisitive mind-books on Bosch and Beowulf, surrealist paintings, visiting artists, and mounds of comic books. It was rich fodder for a young mind and while I didn't always understand what I was looking at, I knew I liked it.

I was an artist before I was a writer. We had a big drawing board at the Neff house-a battered, scribbled-over panel of wood that I would lay out on the floor. With pencil, pen, crayon, or markers, I would create whole worlds-taped together panoramas of monsters and knights and smoldering ruins. I loved monsters-from Grendel lurking outside Hrothgar's hall, to the Minotaur, to the motley host in Sendak's, Where the Wild Things Are. If it had claws and teeth and malicious intent, I wanted to draw it. Still do.

My love of words came later. I don't know exactly what triggered it, but I love the sounds, shapes, and mental snapshots that words can conjure. From the roar of creation myths to the quiet precision of a poem, there's magic in words. The written word makes me feel a fierce connection to other people-I get to experience life through the soul and vitality of another human being. Even as you read these words, a connection is forming between us. We might be separated by great gulfs of distance or time, but still the connection exists. If that's not magic, I don't know what is.

While I love words and art, I didn't make a go of them right away. As a senior at Cornell University, I planned to attend law school when I was contacted by a consulting firm and encouraged to apply for an interview. Upon further inspection, McKinsey & Company sounded like heady stuff-a chance to work with smart people while tackling big problems. I decided law school could wait.

I spent five years in the business world and it was fine, but it just wasn't me. Despite some brilliant colleagues and intriguing projects, I was plagued by the nagging suspicion that I was wasting my life. The real me wasn't all that interested in a corner office-I wanted to be back at my drawing board, creating monsters and knights and ruins. Some might call such an impulse "geeky" or "childish," but the older I get, the more I realize that we're all strange little creatures and you have to build a life around whatever strange little things make you tick. It took nearly 30 years, but I finally concluded that I am a storyteller. I quit the corporate life cold turkey and took up teaching. During my first year teaching high school, I began to write The Tapestry.

The Tapestry is a story that I would have loved as a boy. I don't know how to write for an audience other than myself and I think the story would ring false if I tried. A fair amount of personal history is interwoven into the tale and its characters. For example, vyes are the byproduct of bad dreams I had as a boy, involving tall, wolfish creatures with squinty eyes. The nightmares were recurring and I would run into my parents' room, insisting that the "vyes" were after me. Naturally, when I needed a monster for The Tapestry, I put a call into the vyes. It was the least they could do after tormenting me so.

There are other bits and pieces of my life scattered throughout the books. An elderly married couple that I knew during college inspired the characters of Mum and Bob. A girlfriend's father once asked me if I had read Dante in the original Italian (I had not). The presence of Old Tom at Rowan-its clock tower and its chimes-are a nod to Cornell's Uris Library where I spent many an hour drowsing and watching snow settle onto the campus below. The list could go on. While personal anecdotes are nice, historic epics and mythology play a far greater role in shaping The Tapestry.

I must have been 10 or 11 when I first stumbled upon a book of Irish myths. Compared to the familiar fare of Greek and Norse mythology, the Irish tales seemed very exotic. Ireland's stories and heroes possessed a beauty, savagery, and poetry that were magical, as were the names, which I still find a challenge. Central to Irish mythology is the hero, Cuchulain, and I could not ask for a more heroic or human persona on which to base Max McDaniels. In many ways, Cuchulain is the epitome of the tragic hero-he possesses both supernatural power and human foibles and thus makes for a fascinating character study. The myth of the Tain Bo Cualnge, or, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, likewise offered intriguing opportunities to explore heroism and hubris side by side.

The series also incorporates other genres-fantasy, science fiction, and real history-and the mix of these elements will shift from book to book. As a writer, I find the variety energizing as each new volume presents fundamentally new challenges and opportunities. To date, I've fleshed out detailed plans for over half a dozen books-some of which precede The Hound of Rowan by centuries-and I can safely say that no two are alike. I'd find each a joy to write because I'd find each a joy to read. This same mentality is applied to the illustrations.

When it comes to the drawings, I'm of the old school. Each of The Tapestry's illustrations is a piece of original art. There is no PhotoShop-an application that has its uses, but is as pervasive these days as cosmetic surgery. I'd rather have a flawed drawing with a bit of sweat and fingerprints than a super-slick image that lives only on a server. The latter makes me sad. I have tremendous admiration for the work of some earlier illustrators-artists like Sydney Paget, Thomas Nast, and Arthur Rackham. I still pore over their drawings or political cartoons with love and awe and I'm firmly of the belief that the craft hit its zenith in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I try to emulate these old masters, employing the same tools-if not quite the same skills-in the illustration process. The drawings are created with an old-fashioned dip pen, paintbrushes, and washes of India ink applied to hot-pressed watercolor paper. Someday I'd like to work with color, but I don't see that happening within this series.

There you have it-a little glimpse into my background, the stories I tell, and the pictures I make. I hope it's just the beginning and that I will have the opportunity to spend the rest of my life writing books and teaching young people. I can't imagine anything better.

Customer Reviews

It was almost "too" much like HP...very similar story and plot.
Poppet
First, I believe it's extremely unfair to compare this book to the Harry Potter series.
O. Tarajano
The story is very visual, the characters were well developed and very likeable.
Jeannie Mancini

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 62 people found the following review helpful By G. Sarab on September 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is the start of a series (not unlike Harry Potter - but thankfully different) that follows a group of children who are recruited (by mysterious means) to attend a spooky, wonderful, unique school in New England. The characters are well defined - you really get a feel for each different person - and the non-human characters are inventive and interesting. The author manages to weave in some celtic mythology, fairy tale creatures and beasts totally from his imagination (which are pretty scary). This may be a book published for teens but it's a great read. It keeps you guessing with twists and turns, goodies, baddies and strange mystic happenings. I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well told tale of adventure and magic. Plus the illustrations are beautiful. I wish the author all luck for this series - I think he's filling J.K. Rowlings shoes admirably.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Mallyn on October 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Reading The Hound of Rowan was an utter treat. I kept finding myself transported to Rowan; it truly lives on these pages. The characters are created to be believable, and, with one exception, the character names are well-chosen and not silly or gimmicky. I also really appreciate that this book is literally well written - the grammar is gorgeous without being stuffy or dull (this is a true gift for an English teacher - I will enjoy using Hound as a tool for inspiring student writers). The comparisons to HP are inevitable, but I believe this series stands on its own, and I am so excited to read book 2!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Richards on October 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an incredible read. The story of Max's journey blends mythology and art history into a wild ride that explores the relationships of father and son, teacher and student, compatriots, and ultimately heroes. The writing style instantly sweeps both you and Max into a world that is as believable as it is fantastical.
This is not for the faint of heart, as darkness is barely held at arms length and the struggle to overcome has just begun. It is, however, for both the young and old.
The stage for the second book in the series is set masterfully and one can't help but imagine the trilogy on the big screen.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
a masterful story that will insight a reader to journey beyond the realms of imagination. The Hound of Rowan has some wonderfully engaging characters that will keep the reader wondering the characters true intentions. The story is a bit like Harry Potter, but with a more absorbing plot lines and twists that will keep you guessing until the end. This book is definitely a must read, it is not just for children, but will also engage adults too. I encourage everyone to read this book, as you will not regret it!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on September 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I picked up this book earlier today and was completely captivated by the end of the first chapter. A rich, vivid and adventurous tale that keeps you turning page after page in anticipation of what is coming next. A few twists and turns, memorable, real characters that you root for, and a fast pace will keep you reading and wanting more. While, there are some similarities to the Harry Potter seriers, this book and (I'm sure the forthcoming books in the series) clearly stands on its own two feet with the ease and polish of a well told tale.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David Edmonds on June 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In Henry H. Neff's The Hound of Rowan: Book One of the Tapestry, we are introduced to Max McDaniels, a thirteen year old boy who stumbles upon a room in the Chicago Institute of Art where he finds a strange tapestry, whose pictures seem to move and produce music. After discovering the tapestry, he finds a note in his pocket telling him to expect a visitor who happens to work for Rowan Academy, a school that specializes in nurturing the talents of kids with special abilities.

Setting aside the inevitable HP comparison, I found myself enjoying this book immensely. The book follows Max's first year at Rowan, where he discovers that he may be in possession of powerful magic. There is a great, ancient evil that was thought destroyed but may not be, and a legion of followers who are working to help the ancient evil regain control. There are several other similarities to HP; Max turns out to be extraordinarily good at the school's chosen sport; he has the possibility of having a huge amount of power at his disposal that he is unaware of; the school becomes his safe haven from the Enemy; the town next door is privy to the secrets of the school, and the students are allowed to spend some of their free time there; there is even a kind-hearted giant who the kids befriend (in this case, a reformed ogre who works in the kitchens); there are some other similarities to HP, but revealing those would give away some of the story.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lucy on December 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was pretty excited reading the back of the book - it seemed like it had all the qualities of a children's fantasy novel that would entrance me. It did captivate in some ways, however, in many others it was sadly lacking. I felt myself more compelled to focus on the supporting character (the main characters roommate) than the actual main character Max. He was sadly disappointing in many ways, and continued to disappoint throughout the book. It was only towards the end of the book that he even showed any potential as a leading character - and even then it was so hurried and slapped together that it didn't really end the story at all. Of course, I purchased the second book along with the first and I will continue reading to see where it leads - as I am still interested in David, the supporting character. I always wonder why writers use the 'intelligent one' as a supporting character and not the main one? One of the reasons I actually LOVE "Mysterious Benedict Society" is that it capitalizes on intelligent and knowledgable children as the source of ability and character. As I said earlier - I was really let down by this book :( Hope the second one is better!
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