Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Toby Alone

Toby Alone

Spring 2009 Fiction
Ages: 9 & Up
Author: Timothee de Fombelle
Illustrator: Francois Place
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763641818
Hardcover Price: $17.99
Toby Lolness, the young hero of Toby Alone, is one and a half millimeters tall and lives with his family, some weevils, and a corrupt contractor (among other things) in a tree.

A lot goes on in a tree. It swarms and pulses with myriad tribes and civilizations, with good and evil, and villains and heroes. Adventure is an understatement. The story begins with Toby cold and bleeding and hiding in bark. He’s being hunted by his very own tribe and besides himself, must save practically everyone.

Toby’s father, Sil, is a brilliant scientist who was at one time greatly respected by members of the Treetop for his vast knowledge. Indeed, his insect research is an enjoyable undercurrent in the book. But Toby’s father discovered a secret about the tree -- that it’s alive, and if greedy tycoon Joe Mitch and his weevils keep digging out the heart of it, the civilization will be in danger. Naturally, the Lolnesses are cast out. They’re forced down to the Low Branches to forge a new life, but Joe Mitch is still in pursuit.

Action-packed from the start, Timothee de Fombelle’s story goes back and forth in time, but never drifts. His colorful images of the tree and the different ecosystems that thrive within – grub worm breeders, the Grass people, the scrumptious grasshopper barbecues – are teeming with life. The imagination at work is vivid, the tiny characters are drawn large, and the themes – Courage, Truth, Love – are skillfully developed for a true eco-ride thrill.

Teresa DiFalco   ©2009 Parents' Choice
Teresa DiFalco is an award-winning ghostwriter, writer, and mother in Vancouver, Washington. She's been a contributing editor for Parents' Choice for over ten years. She's a strong speller, a menace at badminton, and makes a decent soufflé.

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