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Neversink Hardcover – March 27, 2012
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"Wolverton debuts with a whimsical fantasy that does for Arctic waterfowl what Redwall did for woodland creatures. The author is a natural storyteller, giving readers a charmingly wry, offbeat tale that draws on mythology and intersperses a good amount of information about Arctic wildlife amid the story's humor." (Publishers Weekly)
"[NEVERSINK] reads with the epic ambition of Watership Down, but with laughs . . . the mythos the author has created is both logical and lovely. An intelligent, entertaining fantasy with snappy dialogue and well-developed characters, all designed to keep readers engaged to the final, satisfying page." (Booklist)
"With history and myths reminiscent of Norse sagas, Neversink and its feathered denizens impart lessons in power, leadership and the role of 'stories' in the guise of a fantasy adventure. An unexpected hero and his amusing, devoted helpers entertain and inspire." (Kirkus Reviews)
From the Back Cover
Along the Arctic Circle lies a small island called Neversink, whose jagged cliffs and ice-gouged rocks are home to a colony of odd-looking seabirds called auks, including one Lockley J. Puffin. With their oceanfront views and plentiful supply of fish, the auks have few concerns—few, save for Lockley's two best friends, Egbert and Ruby, a know-it-all walrus and a sharp-tongued hummingbird.
But all of this is about to change. Rozbell, the newly crowned king of the Owl Parliament, is dealing with a famine on the mainland of Tytonia—and he has long had his scheming eyes on the small colony to the north. Now Neversink's independence hangs in the balance. An insurgence of owls will inevitably destroy life as the auks know it—unless Lockley can do something about it.
Barry Wolverton's debut is an epic tale of some very un-epic birds, a fast-paced and funny story of survival, friendship, and fish.
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As the father of 3 sons I have read a lot of middle age literature, but none better than this delightful book. Information about arctic ecology and themes of personal and community courage are woven into the plot with enough wit and elegance to keep the story light. This tale is age-appropriate, but has so much humor and insight it delights a father, too. Highly recommended for children from 8 to 80.
Let's start with the wonderful fact that Neversink began with a map. I LOVE MAPS. Any book that begins in such a helpful way is already showing signs of gold. This map showed the islands of Tytonia (where the owls ruled), and Neversink (where my favourite birds resided), and ALL areas in between. There is nothing more satisfying than spotting an area's name within a book's narrative, and being able to flip to a map to get the visual. I won't tell you much about what follows the map, because I want you to be JUST as pleasantly surprised as I was *cryptic grin*. Just know that it was beautiful, and clever, and helpful, and I totally would have stopped here and given it 4 ½ stars based on those two pages alone *more cryptic grinning*.
Lockley J. Puffin is the name of our potential hero in Neversink, a peaceful Puffin, who, much to his chagrin, is often mistaken for a penguin. With his wife and two best friends, Egbert (a witty walrus), and Ruby (an eccentric hummingbird), he's lived a fairly routine existence, until one day, it becomes everything but. Over in Tytonia, a famine has broken out among the island, and chaos is a wing span away (see what I did there?..wing?..okay..moving on). The 'Owl Parliament' is not without a solution though, and soon a plan is set in motion that could shatter the harmonious ways of Neversink, and it's residents, forever.
Neversink is targeted at a Middle Grade audience, ages 8-12, but as with a lot of Middle Grade out there, it's definitely meant to be used as more of a guideline than a strict requirement. Personally, I choose to ignore it COMPLETELY. I felt like this book was written for ME, like everything that existed within it's pages was there because Barry Wolverton knew that I needed them. This book was absolutely riveting, and fun, and MY GOD what was food while I read this!? NOTHING else existed around me while I devoured Neversink. I sat there, SO entirely engrossed, and drawn to every single moment in this book, I didn't know up from down when I finally took a small break. I rooted my little heart out, and literally covered my eyes at the parts that became too intense to bear. Wolverton's writing was so visually descriptive, there were moments that I felt the cool Arctic air on my skin, swore I could hear the swoop of wings outside of my window. And the PICTURES.
I can definitely see Neversink making it to the big screen. The art work was breathtakingly good, and added so much more depth to the narrative.
I loved that Barry Wolverton took chances, that death wasn't a quick scene written behind some bushes, and then implied to his readers. There were evil characters in this book, and the tension that existed because of it set the perfect tone for the story. There were elements of mythology, and the fantastical idea that these animals enlist the help of a sea goddess to keep them alive. It was just all so incredibly thought out, so intricately aware of it's small details. I really appreciated the 'extras' at the back of the book. It answered questions I didn't even realize I had stored away in my head. If I had to sum up Neversink in one word, it would be this: clever. It was an amazing idea to begin with-who doesn't love talking animals!?-but Barry Wolverton's writing took it to an outstanding level of good. I will keep this book until I have children, read it to them, have THEM read it, then have their children's CHILDREN read it. This is definitely a book to keep in your forever collection, and I am SO happy that I got to be a part of it.
Also... I want stuffed animals for EVERY character. Can we make this happen!? *SIGH*
Neversink by Barry Wolverton tells the story of an improbable hero, Lockley Puffin, and his adventure that comes full circle. Neversink is an island populated by auks (a family of fish-eating birds that includes puffins, razorbills, murres, and guillemots) lying off the coast of the mainland, Tytonia, where, if you will forgive the expression, the owls rule the roost. When the fear arises that the small animals owls consider food are infected with the sickness, one ambitious owl takes it as an opportunity to oust the king and put the auks of Neversink back under the owls' thumb (yes, I know owls don't have thumbs, it's a figure of speech!). Rozbell, the new owl ruler with a Napoleon complex, enacts a fish tax, indulging in the scrumptious delights that are Lucy Puffin's fish smidgens. It would appear, however, that Rozbell's appetite cannot be quenched (while of course, those around him continue to be quite peckish), and soon the demands upon the auks rise. Lockley refuses to let such a burden fall upon his people, particularly upon his wife Lucy. But with a population of birds who have many mottos about not making waves, how will a squidgy puffin, a scholarly walrus, and an excitable hummingbird save the day?
Oh friends, I loved this book. Barry Wolverton's writing was so unabashedly clever and full of wit that I found myself constantly smiling and chuckling while reading Neversink. It's the type of book that is written perfectly for the intended age, and yet has so many quick references and jokes in it that an adult will most assuredly appreciate them as well. Taking place before the appearance of humankind on the globe, Neversink is full of funny lines that reference things we know as familiar (like pants), and then reminders that those things don't exist. Egbert, our dear walrus, even has some good Beatles and Alice in Wonderland references up his metaphorical sleeve.
Not only was the writing fun and clever, but the story and characters were as well! I appreciate it so much when a middle grade author doesn't shy away from realities such as death. Barry Wolverton doesn't make it ghastly or inappropriate, but he doesn't do the Disney thing and have characters just fall from high places never to be seen again either (I suppose when the bulk of your characters can fly, this tactic would be rather misguided). His villain, Rozbell, has depth, and isn't just a mad-bird lusting for power for power's sake--you can really see how he becomes corrupt, and understand his thought process, even if it's selfish and cruel. I love a well-done bad guy!
And of course I was going to love a book where our hero was a puffin! I just love them so much! Even if they can be rather indignant at times. It would seem that calling a puffin a penguin, is much akin to calling a Scott English. Lockley and Lucy were both perfect heroes in my mind because they didn't set out to be. They're scared, they don't want to make trouble, make things worse, or defy authority, but we all know that everyone can be pushed too far. When pushed too far, some characters break, but heroes push back.
In the end we see that like Neversink, not every good story needs a moral. Some adventures just need to happen. Sam Nielson's illustrations are whimsical and perfect for the setting, as mentioned I am a particular fan of the map.
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