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We’re here! Bagdad Theater for the Wildwood release (put on by Powell’s)

Last night was such at treat.  I posted yesterday about the release of Wildwood, the new book written and illustrated by the collaborative efforts of Colin Meloy of the Decemberist and his wife, illustrator Carson Ellis.  The event was hosted by Powell’s books and I think turned out to be a HUGE success (must have been–the tickets were sold out!).  I was interested to see what kind of crowd the event drew. Like I said yesterday, the book is technically a “children’s novel”, however it definitely has an adult sophistication to it.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of children-teenagers who were at the debut.  I definitely didn’t have the chance to do anything like that growing up.  I will take a momentary pause to say that it was not my parents’ fault.  How wants to debut a highly anticipated novel in Texarkana, TX. I’ll tell you.  No one.

Got my copy! Got my seat! Ready to hear Carson & Colin speak! (100% did not realize that rhymed until I was proofing this post)

The one thing I was disappointed about was they did not do personalized signings.  All of our books were signed already when we arrived and were handed out as we walked into the theater.  I was a tad bummed, but I completely understand why they did it.  The Bagdad Theater holds 590 people (yup, had to google that) and we would have been there all night if each guest had 1-2 books signed and personalized.  I was thrilled, however, to see that they both signed each book.  Not sure why I assumed that only Colin would sign them but both of their signatures are there on the front page!  Personalized or un-personalized, this marks my FIRST signed first edition book.  That the book is a children’s novel, set in Portland, and I attended the premiere makes it all the better.

Colin Meloy of the Decemberists reading from Wildwood.  Map of Portland, as interpreted from the book, in the background.
Carson Ellis talking about her process of illustrating the novel. AMAZING to hear her speak about it!

In case you’ve never been, the best part of a book premiere, hands down, is hearing about the book from the author(s) themselves.  This experience was unique in that we heard from both the author and illustrator.  They talked about their inspiration, process, struggles, future plans, etc. etc.  For some reason, hearing a reading from the author makes me enjoy a novel SO much better.  I think it derives from hearing the enunciation and tone the author’s voice gives the passages.  You hear how the characters’ voices sound in the author’s head, the ups and downs of their voice while reading–it makes the experience for me.

There would be no way for me to go through everything they talked about last night, but I have jotted down a few of the things I found most interesting to share.

  • The illustrations in the book were created with pen, well ink, and gauche.
  • Wildwood is the first edition of a three-part (potentially more) series.  Colin is already about 40 pages in to the next installment and they hope to have it on shelves in about a year.
  • There is a brief mention of a badger carrying a rick-shaw in the novel.  Colin said it really didn’t fit but he put it in the book just because he knew that Carson would love to draw it.  Turns out, the publisher pushed to remove the illustration but they fought to keep it.
  • The process of developing the coyote soldiers was very interesting.  They started, in her first sketch, looking more dog-like, on all fours, wearing armor.  They went through a few different sketches before they decided to take a Wind in the Willows approach to animalanthropomorphism and make the coyotes a little less realistic and a little more imaginative. Thus, the coyote soldiers depicted standing on two legs wearing Napoleonic regalia.
SALLYN after the event! SO READY TO GO HOME AND READ! Ha!
Signed first edition of Wildwood!

I fell asleep while reading last night but I am already hooked on this book and encourage everyone to go out and grab a copy!!  The last thing I’ll mention, because I’ve had a few comments posted regarding this, is yes, the language in this book is challenging.  That said, Colin addressed it so well last night when asked about it.  There is no reason a middle school aged child couldn’t read and digest this novel and understand its content.  There is also no reason why we shouldn’t be challenging young readers to have a better understanding of vocabulary.  SO, in answer to the questions, I don’t see any reason why a young teenager couldn’t read this.  I admit I even had to look up one word last night on the ‘ole Webster’s app on my phone.  It’s simultaneous learning and reading enjoyment! (and isn’t that the best kind of learning anyway?!  The kind disguised as something fun!?)

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Wildwood Chronicles by Colin Meloy & Carson Ellis

Stemming from my post yesterday, I have begun doing a lot of research on children’s literature. Not going to lie, this is the perfect excuse for me.  Though I am an avid reader, I enjoy children’s literature almost as much as adult literature, so I’m happy to have an excuse to browse the children’s sections of Powell’s (aka book mecca) for longer than most adults should!

Tonight I’m attending an event I am particularly excited about!  Colin Meloy, the lead singer of The Decemberists, and his wife, illustrator Carson Ellis, have combined forces to produce one of the most anticipated children’s stories the PacNW has ever seen.  Wildwood is half fairy tale, half coming of age novel set in Portland, OR.  They have taken Portland’s landscape and created a fairy tale world where the real Forest Park is called I.W. (Impassible Wilderness) where no one goes in, and no one comes out. Here’s a little clip from Powell’s website on the upcoming novel:

Created by Colin Meloy, lead singer of the Decemberists, and illustrator Carson EllisWildwood (Balzer & Bray) is the first book in an epic middle-grade fantasy series. Set in Portland, this spellbinding tale features a secret world full of warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with dark intentions. What begins as a rescue mission becomes something much bigger as two friends find themselves entwined in a struggle for the very freedom of the wilderness the locals call Wildwood.

Here is one other review I liked by Michael Chabon, author of well a ton of things…my favorite being The Yiddish Policemen’s Union:

Dark and whimsical, with a true and uncanny sense of otherworldliness, Wildwood is the heir to a great tradition of stories of wild childhood adventure. It snatched me up and carried me off into a world I didn’t want to leave.

I think it takes a special talent to create a story so intriguing you encapsulate both ends of the spectrum as far as your audience is concerned. HarperCollins, the publisher, said, “Wildwood is a spellbinding tale full of wonder, danger, and magic that juxtaposes the thrill of a secret world and modern city life. Original and fresh yet steeped in classic fantasy.”  I loved that description.

On top of what is already an incredible work of art, are Carson Ellis’ astoundingly beautiful illustrations.  I have always been a fan of her work as I’m drawn to ornate illustration.  The color scheme, based on the samples I’ve seen, that she chose for the novel ties very well to the suspenseful tone of the story.  Nothing too bold or bright, yet colorful enough to catch a young readers eye with bold pops of color and immense detail.

Carson Ellis illustration from Wildwood
Carson Ellis illustration from Wildwood

I was lucky enough to hear Colin and Carson speak at the recent Plazm 20th Anniversary event.  Colin read the first chapter of the novel and I was hooked.  Even more so than I already was.  I am attending their release event tonight at the Bagdad Theater with my new favorite Portland friend (who happens to be an avid reader as well).  You’ll see us in line at 6 right when the doors open to get our books signed by Carson and Colin and hopefully hear a little more read and discussed by this powerful duo.

What an inspiration for William and I to see husband and wife collaborations like Wildwood.  I. CANNOT. WAIT.  By the way, I would be happy to try and pick up a copy of the book for those who are interested.  Shoot me an email if you are!  Happy reading everyone!