"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Review: Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal is a tale about a boy, a girl, a town, and a ghost. Watch the short YouTube video (27 seconds) for a quick introduction. The narrator of the video is also the reader on the Far Far Away audiobook, W. Morgan Sheppard. He has the perfect voice for the part of Jacob Grimm, the ghost and the tale's narrator.

The tale, which is truly in the form of all fairy-tales, vacillates from the whimsical to the macabre. The main characters Jeremy Johnson Johnson and Ginger Boultinghouse get lulled in a Hansel and Gretel type setting and fall into the hands of maniacal madman they thought was their friend. Even Jacob Grimm, who is stuck in the Zwischenraum (the space between life and death) doesn't recognize that the children are in danger until it is too late to warn them.

Jennifer Brown interviewed the author, Tom McNeal, in School Library Journal (June 4, 2013). Please go and read the whole interview but in the meantime here are a few takeaways: Most fairy tales have very flat, one-dimensional characters. McNeal wanted to write a longer version of a fairy tale that allowed his characters to grow and learn; Jacob Grimm, a ghost, is the narrator which allowed him to know things that the average narrator wouldn't. He enjoyed writing the voice of Jacob. (And I enjoyed listening to him as read by Sheppard.) The story had to be set in a time before modern technology because too much time would have to be taken up explaining cell phones and the Internet to Mr. Grimm.

The story begs the readers to examine some of the quandaries of life: how to we know the difference between a good person and a bad when the lines are blurred? Is it possible for kids to have healthy relationships with adults other than their parents? Why are bullies always portrayed as unchangeable in YA lit? And lastly, and maybe the most compelling question of all, how do stories nourish and enrich our lives?

Though I have described Far Far Away as a fairy tale it could also fit into other genres of literature. Its genre could be horror, fantasy, romance, historical, and/or adventure. Miriam Budin writing for SLJ says "Whether readers connect more deeply with the suspense, the magical elements, or the gloriously improbable love story, they will come away with a lingering taste of enchantment." I agree. As with most books which have a happily-ever-after ending I found myself sighing with satisfaction as I finished it In fact, I wanted to give this book six stars out of five on my Goodreads page. There is so much to love (and hate) in Far Far Away, don't let the fact that it is a modern fairy tale keep you away.

Far Far Away is a BSD Mock Printz selection. I checked out the audiobook from my public library.


  1. This one sounds really good, Anne! What caught my interest is that it's narrated from a male's point of view which rarely happens when it comes to fairy-tale like stories. I can really only think of a few that were actually good enough to read and recommend. I'll definitely be picking this one up soon as it's listed for the National Book Award Prize for young adults. Great review!

    1. I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed this tale, I hope you do, too.

  2. This sounds intriguing! I;m not much of a fairy tale fan normally but this sounds like it's a bit of everything. It also sounds just right for reading in October! I;ve been reading lots of spooky, creepy stuff.


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