Saturday, February 3, 2018

Book Review: 'Liberty' by Darcy Pattison

Darcy Pattison is an Arkansas children's book author and writing teacher. In 1999, she created the Novel Revision Retreat, which she now teaches across the nation. As a children's book author her books have been translated into nine languages, and have been recognized for excellence by starred reviews, Book of the Year awards, state award lists and more. She is the 2007 recipient of the Arkansas Governor's Arts Award for Individual Artist for her work in children's literature. Her novels include stories of troubled families, fantasy worlds, and aliens shipwrecked on Earth.

Having read Darcy’s shorter books (about dogs and cats) coning to this more involved novel brought a sense of curiosity: could she make a full length novel about anthropomorphized animals? The answer is clearly ‘YES’ and part of that reason is explained in the author’s note during an interview about this particular book: ‘Soon after 9/11, I was sitting at the table with my son, his friend, and my daughter. We talked about the 9/11 tragedy and then hoped for better times. I asked, "What should I write about next?" My son said, "Pigs at sea." That was the working title for this story for a long time. It's a story of leaving home and finding your way in the world. What is that like to leave behind everything you know and go strange and wonderful new places? Penelope and Santiago find their way to the Wider World, a place where an intelligent human or animal can get ahead in this world. The pigs do find their way to the sea and discover a rich and interesting life. Throwing in the sea serpents and the Ice King, well, that just made it more fun. As we move along in life, we will inevitably find friends and enemies. Interestingly, when I read this to a sixth grade classroom, I asked them, "What do you think will happen at the end?" Almost everyone said, "They'll go home." Even in sixth grade, it's hard to face the Wider World with an attitude of adventure and confidence. I think kids absorb such things from stories like this.’ That, fellow readers, is the quality of person that penned this terrific story.

The synopsis distills the facts: ‘When Santiago is thrust into the farm's pigsty, Penelope is captivated by Santiago Talbert's boast, "I plan to sail the Seven Seas." Together, these extraordinary pigs escape the farm and cross into the land of Liberty, a parallel world where an intelligent human or animal can get ahead. They follow their dream to Boston Harbor, where they try to convince sea captains that pigs can sail. First, though, Santiago learns mapmaking, while Penelope works on the docks loading ships. Eventually Penelope signs onto the Ice King's crew as he cuts and packs ice to ship to the far-flung corners of the world. When the fleet of ice ships sails, Penelope and Santiago join the crew of the flagship, captained by Captain Kingsley, the Ice King himself. A massive polar bear, he harbors dark secrets, and the pigs face the shocking truth: they alone can save the friendly sea serpents from the Ice King's clutches. From the fascinating world of tall ships comes this unlikely tale of humble pigs who follow their dream.’

The fantasy of this novel is as appealing as it is to children. Well worth sharing while the children are enjoying it. Grady Harp, August 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.