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Thursday, June 6, 2013

far far away

far far away
by Tom McNeal

The cover of far far away will draw you in, but the story will keep you there.  A smart homage to the Grimm Brothers, far far away makes a nod to several of their cautionary tales.  Perhaps the most notable of those tales is Hansel and Gretel.

Our main character, Jeremy Johnson Johnson, is a shy, fairy-tale-loving child whose mother abandoned him literally and whose father is just not available. He is sole owner of the Two Book Bookstore, a retail facility that has one publication, his grandfather's autobiography.  Did I mention that Jeremy is also haunted (in a good way) by the ghost of Jacob Grimm?  Jeremy is befriended by the beautiful and adventurous Ginger, and it's Ginger's shenanigans that cast them in their own fairy tale.
Although I would have like McNeal to have connected this story more to Jeremy's grandfather's autobiography and his mother's disappearance, this rich narrative had me holding my breath to the bitter end.
The situations that McNeal puts his young characters in allows for detailed character development which made me feel like I really knew Jeremy, Ginger and their supporting cast.  I could practically small the baking Princecakes and the pine trees in the woods with his vivid setting of the scenery.
Although I'm not sure that today's middle school child will find these small town characters familiar, I would consider far far away to be a modern day fair tale with lessons for many middle school children.

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