Friday, July 10, 2015

Author, Author, Shine Out Loud, "The Book of Nonsense" for Young Adults

The Book of Nonsense (Forbidden Books, Vol. I).   The Forbidden Books series is in the hands of producer Kevin Bannerman (Lion King, Ice Age, Curious George) and screenwriter Karen Janszen (Dolphin Tale), who are developing it for film. Below is a review of the book.  

By Amanda R. Smith on June 2, 2015

Format: Paperback

There’s a line from Nathaniel Hawthorne that reads, “Words—so 

innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how

potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows 

how to combine them.” On its surface The Book of Nonsense is a young

adult adventure story about twins who uncover and attempt to

stop a centuries-old plot to unravel and re-form the world as we

know it—through the discovery and use of the Words of Power from the

First Tongue, the language that is rumored to have brought the 

universe into being. And this brings us to the core of The Book of 

Nonsense: It’s actually a meditation on the power of language. It’s

both a cautionary tale about how the words and ideas contained in

books can be warped and used for terrible harm in the wrong hands

and a celebration of the way those same words have potential to do

great things in the right hands. The problem, however, is that so

many hands seem to be the wrong ones. The power of the First

Tongue is not presented as something especially desirable, but

rather something so strong that it can’t really be wielded with any 

guarantee of safety—even by those with the best of intentions. 

Potent for good and evil, indeed.

While these may seem like heady thoughts, the adventures of Daphna

and Dexter Wax do make the themes accessible and palatable to young

readers by pitting the young heroes against at least two truly 

terrifying foes. Asterius Rash and his hulking assistant Emmet are

drawn in grotesque lines, all gnarled joints and ruined eyes. Rash

(even his name is gross) is driven by literally blind ambition, and 

Emmet is obsessed with his only lifelong goal, finally getting to 

kill someone. Rash uses the Words of Power as heavy weaponry to bend

others to his distorted will—he is the personification of the ways

power can corrupt.

Daphna and Dexter, in contrast, are innocents, drawn into a 

situation that is well over their heads, but they have to make the

best of things. While twins are generally supposed to be close

allies, the Wax twins don’t really like each other and could not be

more different. She’s a bookish goody two-shoes, and he’s engaged 

in mindless rebellion—but both are using these tactics to cover up

deep insecurities that seem to only begin to heal when the unlikely

pair joins forces. They become more likeable when they’re working

together, and it’s easy to root for them to succeed.

The plotting here is fast-paced but the way threads that seem

insignificant eventually tie together is immensely satisfying.

Efficient is the best word I can use to describe the plot—Slater

packs several millennia’s worth of events into a densely packed

timeline, but it never feels rush or as if events are getting short

shrift. And while the outcome of the adventure is deeply poignant,

as the first installment of a series, the ending strikes the 

balance of wrapping up just enough while leaving room for the

adventure to continue.


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