Translator: Sarah Ardizzone
Release date: UK 2008
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Target audience: 9+
Toby Lolness is just one and a half millimetres tall, and he’s the most wanted person in his world, the Great Oak Tree. When Toby’s father makes a ground-breaking discovery, tapping into the very heart of the Tree’s energy, he also realizes that exploiting it could permanently damage their world. Refusing to reveal the secret of his invention to an enraged community, the family is exiled. But one man is determined to get hold of the forbidden knowledge ... and his plan is to destroy the Tree. Now Toby's parents have been imprisoned and sentenced to death. Only Toby has managed to escape, but for how long?
Toby Alone is a wonderful and fascinating adventure story. Toby Lolness is a tiny character with a truly moving story to tell. The story follows his experiences as a fugitive after his parents are accused of treason. The Tree is an extraordinary fantasy world which is nothing short of an imaginative masterpiece. Ardizzone has translated de Fombelle's words so beautifully and the novel has a seamless flow and is brimming over with elegant description.
The narrative moves back and forward through time slowly revealing the events that cause Toby to be alone. The novel has two clear messages. The first is that fear is the most powerful weapon to use to manipulate someone. The second is about climate change and the cost of abusing the earth. However, I didn't feel like I was being preached at while I read the novel. The message is told through Toby's observations of the world around him. He doesn't fully understand the extent at which the Tree is at risk from its inhabitants' greed.
At times I thought the novel was quite long for the target audience but it is well-paced. The ending was full of twists and turns and was far from disappointing. I really had no idea how Toby's life was going to grow and change. He goes on a remarkable journey and meets many characters both good and bad.
You may remember from my In My Mailbox #8 post that I was reading Toby Alone in preparation for a project that I'm planning at work. This novel will be an excellent starting point to discuss viewpoints and perspective. Toby is so tiny that his view of the Tree is entirely different from how I would see it. I'm hoping that this will inspire my students' creativity and help them to produce a piece of art that looks at the world we know in a different way. The book also deals with these themes: climate change, friendship, betrayal, isolation, cultural differences. The overall theme for my project is literature in translation.
Overall, this is a very literary adventure story. I enjoyed reading it and I simply adore the world de Fombelle created in The Great Oak.