Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Ollie's Odyssey by William Joyce

"... homemade toys ... within their stitching and fabric, bits of their makers past can be felt or heard like an echo."

That was a very big word.  In the realm of toys, 
being favorited was a special distinction. It was a yum as it got."

When Billy is born the doctor explains there is a small hole in his heart.  To cope with this agonizing news his mother makes Billy a very special toy.

"This toy that Billy's mother was sewing was already special.  It was made of various kinds of deliciously comfortable fabric, which she had chosen with great care.  ...  (then) she gently sewed into its chest a small heart. The heart was made from a scrap of fabric ... " and a tiny bell from a toy she had loved as a child - a doll called Nina.  Billy recovers and Ollie becomes his best friend and most loyal companion.

"Keeping Billy safe was Ollie's favorite thing to do. He'd put his head on Billy's chest and listen to his heart."

William Joyce uses alternating chapters in Ollie's Odyssey setting them decades apart to give us the 'back story' about Nina and her fun fair companion Zozo.  Both are toys in a games booth where contestants throw soft balls at suspended toys trying to knock them down.  It actually sounded quite brutal to me.  Zozo enjoys his 'job' because he can see the beautiful Nina nearby but one day she is taken away and adding to his heart-break the carnival gradually falls into disrepair and ruin.  Zozo's own heart changes.  He wants to take revenge and he targets the 'favorites'.  To execute his plan he makes new creatures called Creeps. He plans to destroy all of the favorite toys.  And be warned the Creeps will really give you the creeps.

At times this is a very dark story especially when Zozo's heart becomes bitter and furious but this is balanced by some funny moments.  Here a couple I enjoyed :

"Since Billy carried Ollie with him everywhere, when Billy got too stinky it usually meant that Ollie got something called 'P.U.' ... and P.U. always meant 'a trip to the wash."

"Once 'in trouble', it seemed to take forever to get out of it. Trouble time went 50 times slower than regular time and 377 times slower than fun time, which went faster  than any other time."

"But then suddenly the lady and man up front were kissing.  'Whoa, lots of slobber ... Major slobber alert."

Now I have done some further reading about William Joyce and I can perhaps see his trajectory culminating in this wonderful story.  In 1995 William Joyce created two of the major characters in Toy Story. When his daughter was gravely ill she took comfort from her Big Teddy - her talisman. Adult readers should click the link to read more.

One interesting aspect of this book is the use of coloured paper.  The dark scenes involving Zozo have a brown sepia tint and the scenes with Ollie are on bright white.  I also like the concept of patchpaw as a way to define left and right but I will leave you to read the story yourself to more fully understand this idea.  You also need to discover the importance of fireflies - a little insect that utterly fascinates me.

William Joyce :  "I’m very interested in the humanity we bestow upon our favorite stuffed animals and blankets from childhood — the emotional force that these pieces of fabric and stuffing have for us, and how that emotion echoes through our entire lives. It’s very powerful and poignant.  I hate clowns and have always wanted to have a scary clown villain."

I read this book in two sittings and I did not draw breath.  Yes it is THAT good!  Huge thanks goes to a Grade 3 class at my school - their excitement made me rush out and buy this book for myself. Watch this YouTube review and then read some comments by Grade 3 children :

Ollie's Odyssey is a magnifcent book!!! It has adventure, feeling and a sizzling start with the first sentence being "When Billy was born he was nearly lost." It involves a favourite toy, a boy called Billy and a heartwarming adventure. I highly recommend you read this book.

Ollies Odyssey is a beautiful book about a toy, a boy and their imagination. If you like adventures this is the book for you. I think it deserves a 100 stars.

Ollie's Odyssey is a wonderful book with great adventures in it. Every time I read it I can't put it down it is now my favourite book. I am so glad you wrote this book.  Did you know about half my class has bought it so they can read it over and over again and there are 28 people in my class.

Ollie's Odyssey is a beautiful book. Ollie was made by Billy's mum the day Billy was born. Billy was born with a hole in his heart which was scary for Billy's parents.
There is a lot of A-ventures (adventures)
And a lot of Super sneaking and Ninja moves.
But there is a down side. There are bad guys called "THE CREEPS". There is creep 1,2,3,4, Super Creep and their leader Zozo. Zozo was once happy but you have to read Ollie's Odyssey to find out about this story.
Do you want to read Ollie's Odyssey now? I hope I have persuaded you.

I would follow Ollie's Odyssey with : 

Here is a teaching guide from the publisher.

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