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Showing 1-10 of 74 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 145 reviews
on April 26, 2016
I found this to be an absolutely delightful book. Writing about what goes through the mind of a child is a difficult task without making them simply appear to be miniature adults. Kids see a very different world that adults do and T.S. inhabits a world that few adults have ever seen. It is that which makes this book special. The characters were vivid enough that I could see them as I read through it and Larsen’s use of margin notes really helped to paint an in-depth portrait of T.S..
If you are contemplating purchasing this book, watch the film first. I think you will enjoy both of them. I read the book first and felt that the film was a letdown.
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on March 7, 2016
Very well written and fascinating design too. Really enjoyed working through the novel (yes, it's not a straight read if you're going to find all the information in the side matter) and give it 5 stars even though I found the ending to be a bit abrupt and anticlimactic after the meticulous story development.
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on June 5, 2017
Interesting approach to storytelling, lots of great 'mapping' graphics.... Not cartographic so much, but illustrative of human experience.... Violence isn't graphic. The 'novella within a story' didn't really engage me that well.
Suitable for older teens through adults ( young teens might not appreciate themes)...
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on July 29, 2014
This is the author's first book, and I certainly hope he is not a "one-hit wonder". The novel is about a very nerdy, endearing boy with an unusually strong scientific curiosity and an obsession to "map" out everything he experiences in his young life. It is about his somewhat quirky family and a tragedy in their past, and his adventurous attempt to fill the out-sized expectations of him by others. It is a book like no other, and don't wait for it to come out in ebook format, because you will never be reading it on your kindle.

The author tells his tale cleverly through a scientific lens. T.S. sees his world through small morsels of observable experiences in ordinary life. These experiences he records in drawings and notations with scientific detachment. They are the kinds of observations that anyone could make and annotate, and the annotations could lead interested people to wonder why. Yet the book is far from dry, and the characters are well-developed, and just quirky enough not to be predictable. I was captivated and fascinated from page one. My one caveat is that I think he could have fleshed out the ending a bit more. But it is a small caveat indeed. I believe this is the best book I have read this year.
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on October 6, 2010
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet is a joy to read. The novel's layout is unlike anything I have ever seen, with unconventional footnotes decorating the margins and telling stories of their own, the novel is truly unique. The novel is told through the eyes of an adolescent genius who obsesses over cartography. Yet, Spivet acknowledges in the novel "I would be the first to admit that I was still a child in more than a few facets" (32).

The novel is most appropriate to use in a classroom setting if it was introduced to an advanced placement English class. The novel is written through the perspective of a young adult but in no way reflects a young adult novel. It is also quite lengthy (374 pages) and the notations found in the margins require close reading. However, the novel does cover some practical themes for today's youth. It reflects parent/child/sibling relationships, a mature mind trapped in a young boy's body, death of a sibling, and much more.
I particularly thought the constant references to mapping made it teachable. Spivet explains, "A novel is a tricky thing to map. Maybe you just need to be an adult in order to perform this high-wire act of believing and not-believing at the same time" (37).

This could be a perfect way to spark class discussion and talk about how to go about navigating through novels and the power they possess that allows one to enter the realm of make believe. Perhaps if I taught this book I would have students become cartographers and start charting some of their own experiences in reading literature, everyday life and how they see the world. Spivet's character can surely be inspirational to young and old readers alike.
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on March 22, 2015
This was a wonderful story. I loved this book. It seems a bit advanced for a child's book but the story is great. I watched the movie trailer after reading this book and just from viewing the trailer I could see that there were some obvious changes from the book. I decided not to see the movie because I loved the story in the book so much I didn't want to have the movie version in my head. The boy in this book reminds me of the boy from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Both have those analytical minds that are so quirky and different. I bought this as a used book and it was in excellent condition and arrived right on time. I will now give this book to my 12 year old niece who is a voracious reader, which is what I had planned when I bought it.
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on October 5, 2010
I'll be perfectly honest: The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen was a difficult novel to begin. The illustrations and column addendums were a pain to take breaks for because they are dense and interrupt the flow of the story. The story took a while to get going; there was a considerable amount of heming and hawing on behalf of the narrator. In Part One, I found myself thinking, 'only three hundred and fifty more pages...only three hundred more pages...' at the end of every chapter. T.S. Spivet's quirkiness and technical jargon distract from the story and add complexity that needed not be there. At least that's how it seemed in Part One.

Once the action started, the endearing story of a twelve year old boy who--essentially--runs away from home to escape his brother's death is engaging, thrilling, and is the modern adventure story that we've all been waiting for. Tecumseh Spivet, a prodigy cartographer and the son of a rancher and female scientist, makes a journey from Montana to Washington, D.C., primarily by 'hobo-ing' and hitchiking. His journey to D.C. starts after he receives a call from the Smithsonian, congratulating him for winning their prestigious Baird Award and inviting him to give a speech at an elaborate banquet. Embarrassed for his parents' pride, he leaves early in the morning to begin his journey, with a handful of snacks and all of his cartography equipment. His encounters all along his adventure are unbelievable and are translated to the reader through the scope of a 12-year old boy, using science and his limited experience on a ranch in the Mid-West to explain away the workings of the world.

By the end of the novel, I had become a believer in mapping and had developed a fondness for the boy wonder. Suddenly, around the middle of Part 2, I eagerly looked forward to the exquisite maps and side notes T.S. Includes for our enjoyment and clarification. As we move along with him on his journey, he becomes less and less of a prodigy and more of a scared, but incredible, boy, making his way cross country to accept a prestigious award from the Smithsonian, just because it seemed like a good idea. I heartily recommend this book to readers looking for a good adventure story.

Being a pre-service English teacher, I could not help but think about whether this book would be teachable or not. While it could fall under the category of "Young Adult" for its youthful protagonist, I don't know if I would consider it a possibility, or even an enjoyment, for most students in high schools. The language is very complex at times and highly technical. While this is surely a linguistic device to illustrate the emotional barriers of the main character, I think it may turn some students off to the story. If I were to teach it, I would give it to older students in eleventh or twelfth grade and allot a great deal of time to it for classroom discussion. Many of the terminology Larsen introduces--like that of cartography, entomology, topography, and psychology--would be problematic for some average level readers, let alone for below average readers.

Indeed, the first hundred pages does set up an important background and character sketch of all major players, but I feel that it would move too slowly for students to really, truly enjoy. They may end up hating the book early on and then not make it through the important and valid values and themes that the book discusses later on. At 375 pages, it is quite long, but so are many great classics. While length does induce complaining, I don't believe students would be more opposed to reading this than, say, Crime and Punishment or Gone with the Wind.

Honestly, I would first put this on a summer reading list and gauge student reaction before introducing it into the classroom. Ways of reading are changing, and students of the present and future may respond better to a more technical lingo, replete with diagrams and illustrations as a supplement.

Overall, after becoming more acquainted with T.S Spivet's voice, I found this to be a delightful read and I think many mature readers would enjoy it.
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on July 10, 2009
The unusual format of this novel (almost square) gets your attention but when you open it and begin to read it, the REASON for the format KEEPS your attention. That reason is that the w-i-d-e margins allow room for many of the main character's maps, drawings and diagrams that accompany his telling of his story.

The main character is 12-year-old Tecumseh Sparrow (T. S.) Spivet who is an obsessive map maker of all things around him. These include mundane and expected things such as the layout his room, river drainage patterns, etc. but also other wide-ranging subjects like facial expressions of others, insect antennae, diagrams of noise patterns and other things you'd never think of.

Some of his work has been submitted to the Smithsonian by a teacher friend of his and T. S. is selected to receive a prestigious award from them. His parents are unaware of this and he sneaks off on a cross-country trek to D.C. to receive the award.

The story of his trip and his time in D.C. take up about 1/2 of the book with the other part setting the stage by allowing us to get to know him, his family and getting a glimpse into his life on a Montana ranch where he really does not fit.

This is a very interesting read, made all the more so by all of the diagrams, maps and explanatory notes added in the margins by T. S.

The only thing keeping me from giving this 5 stars is that the story seems to wind up too easily. After all of the detailed story telling leading up to T. S.'s time at the Smithsonian it just seemed to me that the end of the story lacked the detail and attention that the rest of the book was blessed with.

I will watch for other books by Reif Larsen and just hope they're as good as this one.

Get it. Read it. Enjoy it.
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on July 2, 2010
This is one of the most unique reading experiences I have had in my rather lengthy life. T. S. Spivet is the 12-year-old narrator who is what some might experience as the nerd of the nerds, a kid with a thirst for knowledge with an almost super-human ability to observe seemingly everything. Here is my suggestion when you have the book in hand: take a little time to get used to all the graphics (no, this is not a graphic novel!) because you absolutely must be willing to do as the narrator asks and follow the lines to the sides of the page to pick up some truly wonderful additional information. In other words, potential reader, don't even start this novel if you intend to make it a skimming experience. This is much too wonderful to skim.
T. S. is Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet. And all the males in the family have carried the Tecumseh name even though they are not related to the more historically well-known one. He lives with his father, a farmer in Montana; his mother whom he calls Dr. Clair, herself somewhat eccentric; and his sister Gracie, a rather normal 16-year-old. And you will learn, bit by bit, what happened to the younger brother.
T. S. is a cartographer but far more than a mapmaker. He illustrates everything he sees. I really don't want to spoil a wonderful laugh line. So let me just say this: imagine what it would be like to "map" one of America's most well-known and well-respected classic novels. Well, that is exactly what T. S. takes on as just one of his projects.
But the main thrust of this novel is this: he has been awarded a fellowship of sorts to spend time at the Smithsonian in Washington, D. C. But the catch is this: those making the award believe T. S. is an adult. Naturally he is determined to go there. But for a variety of reasons he cannot tell his parents. So he sets off on his own. And if I should tell you more, then you might not buy this novel. And if you didn't buy this novel, you would not be calling your friends and raving about it, would not be doing what I have been, ordering copies for friends.
Oh, and then add this to the wonderment: Reif Larsen apparently is not year 30-year-old himself. I cannot imagine what he might be capable of next.
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on October 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
At age 28, Brown and Columbia graduate Reif Larsen lived out every debut authors' fantasy. He created a singularly unique New York Times bestseller that had ten publishing houses in a bidding war. Penguin Books paid almost a million dollars for the novel and were not disappointed. Like J. K. Rowling, Larsen respects his young readers and does not talk down to them. He packed his story with fascinating illustrated sidebars on almost every page. Some reviewers found reading the sidebars exhausting. Those who love tidbits of trivia like I do will find the information fascinating.

The story follows a 12 year old gifted cartographer named Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet who lives in Montana. Map making is the psychological coping mechanism that gets T.S. Spivet through the day. He maps everything from the Nation's Capital to his sister shucking corn. Shortly after a family tragedy Spivet receives word from the Smithsonian that he has won the prestigious Baird award. He hops a freight train and hoboes his way to Washington, DC.

Along the way Spivet meets some nefarious characters, learns about his mysterious family history and realizes some truths about life and people in general. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this debut novel and look forward to Larsen's next book.
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