Tuesday, April 17, 2012

WGCU Public Radio reviews Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus

Here is the full transcript, but I prefer to listen to Linda Fasulo's audio recording of the broadcast. Her mellifluous voice conveys a lot of meaning that the text only hints at. Thank you Linda!

The other night, a 30-something year old contestant on the game show Jeopardy admitted to being particularly fond of reading teen fiction. When asked why, she replied that there is a sense of innocence and wonder in these books that cannot be found in adult novels. It was an interesting comment. And having just finished today's featured novel titled Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus by first-time novelist Christopher Tozier, her statement is one with which I fully concur.

In Tozier's novel, premier book in his planned Olivia Brophie series for children ages 8 through 14, readers are introduced to 10 year old Olivia Brophie.  Olivia lives in Wisconsin with her dad and video-game-obsessed younger brother Nathan, or "Gnat" spelled G-N-A-T to Olivia's way of thinking. Her mother is a soldier fighting in Iraq and other than missing her mom, life in Wisconsin has been pretty good for Olivia Brophie. That is, until a package arrived and changed everything. Now, she and Gnat have been sent to live in the Florida scrub with a crazy Aunt and Uncle she didn't know she had. Coral snakes keep leaving her presents. At night, tree frogs write eerie messages in cursive on her window. And bears follow her home from school each day. At least they keep the bullies from bugging her like they had when she first arrived. Yet what Olivia doesn't know but will soon discover, is that bears aren't the only scary things following her home from school. And that far worse things lie in wait in the Florida scrub.

Frankly, I thoroughly enjoyed Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus. The book is written in an easy style, simple to follow, easily relatable to its target age-group. The storyline itself is purely magic. And the sense of wonder created by some of its unique characters is truly magic in itself. Take Squirt for example, but then you will have to read the book to figure out who or what he or she really is.

Yet, there is far more to this novel than first meets the eye. Tozier has carefully crafted his prose to illustrate to teens and pre-teens the importance of persevering in the face of adversity and of standing firm in their belief in themselves and in the sure knowledge of their own self-worth. The importance of failure is also explored. By adulthood, most of us have learned that failure is only a beginning, its never an end, but rather the first step on the road to incredible and amazing possibilities. Just ask Olivia Brophie.

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