05 November 2008

Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains (Laurel Snyder)

Some children's books are educational, others are thought-provoking. This one is just plain fun.

Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains is about the adventures of Lucy, a milkmaid, and Wynston, a prince. The two grow up together in the town of Thistle, in the Bewilderness, playing, exploring and arguing with each other. But then one day King Desmond informs Wynston that it is time for him to grow up and to begin looking for a suitable princess to become his future queen. And also, of course, to learn to be a proper prince:
"Yesterday I got fitted for a new pair of beaded boots, learned to eat fish soup with a tiny fork, and studied the ancient art of holding my tongue without getting it wet."

Lucy, left alone, decides to head for the Scratchy Mountains and see if she can find her mother, who has been missing since Lucy was two; all anyone will tell her is that her mother is gone. So off she goes, up the mountains, accompanied only by her somewhat confused cow, Rosebud. Along the way she acquires a prairie dog named Cat, takes a boat ride and passes through a most peculiar hailstorm before finally arriving at the neat, orderly, "very civilized" town of Torrent - where people live in alphabetical order, rainstorms run on schedule and the jail doubles as an ice-cream parlour.
She climbed down and led Rosebud around to the front door of the jail, where she found two signs. The first read sternly THE LAW PROTECTS THOSE WHO PROTECT THE LAW. The second proclaimed FLAVOR OF THE DAY: BUTTER FUDGE RIPPLERUMP! Lucy puzzled at this. It didn't seem very Torrential to sell ice cream in a jail, but she was learning not to be surprised at the twists and turns of her strange adventure
Meanwhile, back at the ranch castle, Wynston escapes from his lessons and goes looking for Lucy. Upon learning where Lucy has gone, he and his horse, Sprout, set out into the mountains after her. He also ends up in Torrent (having been commissioned to deliver a letter to someone there), and he and Lucy promptly run afoul of the local laws....

As I said, the book is fun. Lucy's songs are amusing, as are most of the situations Lucy, Wynston, Cat and Rosebud find themselves in. Even the scary and depressing bits aren't too scary and depressing for younger readers. Greg Call, who did the cover, also illustrated the book. My favourite pictures are the one of baby Lucy pulling the dog's ears and the one of the boat and the waterfall. This is Snyder's first novel, and I'm looking forward to her next one.

Other reviews can be found here and here.

Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, by Laurel Snyder; Random House Books for Young Readers, 2008. Available from (amongst other places) Amazon, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble.

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