This book rang bells for me immediately. It was about bright children, as my books are. It wasn’t afraid to use interesting phrases like “chromatic aberration” and “inordinately fast synapses firing simultaneously”) and literary references such as ‘Den Vinter Svampe’ and ‘The Steady Gaze of Tawosret’s Mummy’. It took magical and unusual events in its stride, and was beautifully written in an uncluttered way. I felt a spooky affinity with the writer…
I’m always happy to revisit Wonderland, and if Lewis Carroll can be allowed a talking white rabbit, Nancy Lodge must certainly be allowed a dignified corgi named Wilbur. Wilbur is not impressed with wizards of the flowing beard/knobbly stick and pointy hat variety because “you have to jump through funnels to get near their zip code.” Fair enough…
Lucy is on a quest to rediscover her confidence. She strives so hard for perfection in all things that the slightest mishap en route to it can derail her. Getting an ‘A’ is all that matters. Wilbur has chosen his current shape to challenge her rigid assumptions. She has jumped on to the red path, which may not be all that far from the yellow brick road… “You have so much to learn” he tells her, at which point Lucy sighs with relief. “That’s okay… I like learning.” Yes yes YES.
Poetic description abounds. Lucy’s feet sink into “night-soaked” grass. The air has “diamond brilliance”. And how about this for a sentence: “It was as if every part of her was giggling, especially her heart.”?
Wilbur comes from the planet Wilwahren (= ‘seeks to safeguard’) and has done amazing things: he has rescued poor parallelograms from the beastly blabbermouths (somewhere no doubt quite close to where the borogroves were mimsy, and the mome raths outgrabe). He has even sewn up a black hole or two.
He takes her back to the Renaissance and to other centuries to meet great painters and discuss their work with them. He warns her about never ever using an anomaly when out of her own time-zone, and patiently explains what an ‘anomaly’ is. The painters reveal the special significance of many details in their paintings: reminding us how rewarding it can be to take a detailed look.
Lucy regularly reminds me of Alice. When Wilbur tells her not to worry about him so much but instead to “appreciate the here and now” she replies “I am! I can appreciate more than one thing at a time, you know.”
When the Navigator malfunctions they find themselves in other seminal times and spaces. This is history, geography and psychology, swallowed with liberal doses of delightful nonsense. Human reality, after all, is largely a figment of human imagination. I’ll bet you didn’t know that the language spoken on Saturn’s sixty seventh moon has no metaphors or past participles.
This book will broaden children’s minds, increase their vocabularies and teach their imaginations to fly. It is most definitely my kind of book.