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Toby Alone Hardcover – March 24, 2009
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Amazon Best of the Month, March 2009: Who says great characters need to be larger than life? Meet Toby Lolness, a boy who stands one and a half millimeters tall (just smaller than the tip of a pencil). This Lilliputian hero lives in a marvelously vast complex of trunks and branches known as the Tree, an enormous oak inhabited by a tiny civilization. Toby's idyllic childhood is threatened when his scientist father figures out what keeps the Tree alive, and what will eventually cause its death: a seemingly endless supply of sap that people hope to tap and convert into a source of energy. In this thrilling eco-allegory, young Toby is in the race of his life to rescue himself, his family and the Tree from imminent destruction by powerful corporate interests that threaten them all. Timothée de Fombelle's Toby Alone takes readers on a fast-paced adventure of unusual proportions and unexpected perspectives. Now translated into nearly two dozen languages, this cleverly illustrated debut is sure to win the hearts of English readers (ages 9 and up) on this side of the Atlantic. --Lauren Nemroff
From Publishers Weekly
The impressive debut novel from French playwright de Fombelle deftly weaves mature political commentary, broad humor and some subtle satire into a thoroughly enjoyable adventure. The people of the Tree are two millimeters tall or less, but their society mimics ours. Industrialists keep digging holes, politicians play dirty games and scientists conduct research to discover the nature of the world in which they live. Toby Lolness, the son of a renowned scientist, is forced to become a fugitive when his father’s discoveries reveal the dangers presented by the continued development of the Tree. Toby’s story is revealed in flashbacks as he runs from the cronies of Joe Mitch, a builder who has rapidly become a political powerhouse. Mitch’s machinations have turned the Tree into a totalitarian society in which reading and writing are banned, and only Toby remains free to try to rescue his parents and bring down Mitch and his crew. It’s hard not to see some of the book’s antecedents—the Borrowers, the Littles, etc.—but de Fombelle has built a unique world with a fully developed social and political structure. Ages 9–up. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
"The book, `Toby Alone' by Timothée De Fombelle is an adventurous, if unsettling, book for tweens.
"Toby is only one millimeter tall at 13 and, lives in a big oak tree with his parents. Already, he has a so-called life of crime, due to his father. You see, Toby's father is a famous scientist. Everyone admires him. That is, until he finds a secret he is not willing to part with, because it will kill the very tree they live in, even though it would help people work less. That's all. As a result, Toby's family is banished to the Lower Branches where he meets Elisha, his only true friend. Then, that life crumbles away when his family is captured. Toby escapes, only to be chased after again by his so-called best friend (from the Higher Branches). What a wonderful life.
"I wouldn't recommend this book to younger tweens or kids because the book was uncomfortable in how the author described things. However, I think that it is perfectly fine for teenagers.
"I would give the book three stars: one for the plot, one for cover and one for the fact that it kept me hooked."
I think that this book is OK for younger teens-not much violence, and if there is, it isn't graphic at all, but it still makes sense-I still understood wht was happening. I would recomend this book for ages 11-50s.I got hooked on page 1. A great read.
Toby and his parents, the brilliant scientist Sim and the lovely Maya, were exiled to the lower branches of the great oak Tree years ago after Sim discovered an amazing fact about the home of their great civilization --- it's alive! With his family looking on, Sim demonstrates to the grand council how the Tree's sap works and how harming it will kill their only home. This alarming news is not met with open arms by one particular member of the council, Joe Mitch, who is making a gold mine with his deep digging operation at the center of the tree and who hopes to harvest the sap for his own benefit. When Sim refuses to share the secret of the power of the sap, Mitch leads the effort to banish Sim, Maya and Toby from the summit of the Tree.
At first Toby is apprehensive about the lower branches. His family is starting from scratch, it is close to the grasslands and the mysterious (if not dangerous) grass people, and Toby is without a friend his own age. Slowly but surely, Toby begins to adapt to his surroundings. He has an uncanny sense of direction among the rugged wilderness and has befriended the beautiful Elisha Lee, a girl his own age with whom he spends much of his time. Over the years Toby grows up healthy and happy, even if he is short.
A letter proclaiming the death of Toby's grandmother propels the family back up north for the first time since they were banished. Even though many years have passed, Mitch hasn't forgotten --- or forgiven --- the Lolness family for refusing to share the secret of the tree's sap. Sim and Maya are captured, but Toby escapes and is indeed alone as he flees his pursuers, attempts to return to Elisha and his home among the lower branches, and figure out a way to free his parents. Numerous dangers wait at each turn as Toby battles both the people of the tree and the elements of nature.
Timothee de Fombelle seamlessly weaves flashbacks among the main action to provide much of the back story to the world Toby and the people of the Tree inhabit. It is easy to spot the environmental allegory in the story, but it does not come off as preachy by any means. Instead, it lets the readers see what happens when a society becomes greedy and turns a blind eye to protecting its home. A fold-out map in the cover and many clever illustrations add an extra element to the book. Although Toby is small, his story is not, and readers will not be disappointed with the swift storytelling and the big hearts of many of its main characters. TOBY ALONE is just the start of a larger story with bigger implications to be revealed in the next book.
--- Reviewed by Benjamin Boche