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3.25.2013

Wondertown ~ Review and Excerpt

Wondertown
A Musical Story by Mac Fallows
Illustrations by Emrah Elmasli

Wondertown is a story within a story.  Neil Abbott spends the week-ends with his grandmother.  His grandmother understands him unlike his parents.  His father can't stand his grandmother and is hostile towards his almost 12 year old son.

After his parents leave Neil asks his grandmother if she thinks he is normal?  She tells him that "normal" has lost its meaning and that she would describe him instead as special.

What follows is a rainy week-end with the story of Wondertown and a hero who was anything but normal...


Rabbit is the prince of the Hill People, but his parents are about exile him because he is not like any other hillman.  Prince Rabbit is too short to marry all the women are taller than him.  He likes to gather supplies and cook his own food.  And Rabbit has a unique skill, he can taste things without actually tasting it.  With days before the Man-Hawk makes his generational appearance, he needs to make plans for his departure from Stone City.

But Rabbit makes one last attempt to become normal and become king.  He crosses into the lands of the Foresters and meets Princess.  Princess longs for freedom, she has been promised in marriage to a man she does not want to marry.  When Princess learns that Rabbit can find food anywhere she makes plans to join him in his escape.  The two make plans to meet the next night and make their way into the hills.

As Princess makes her way to meet up with Rabbit she is the sacrifice chosen by Man-Hawk to become his master's new wife.  As Princess is carried across the sea to Wondertown, the Foresters prepare to make war against the Hill people because Rabbit is believed to have tricked Princess into entering a trap.  To keep the peace Rabbit is sent after Man-Hawk so that his fate would be the same as Princess and his spirit forever lost.

But Rabbit doesn't undertake his journey with a goal of failure but rather to rescue Princess the woman who is his perfect match and who has captured his heart.  Along the way Rabbit makes allies and also meets those who would kill him just because he is not of their people.

Meanwhile Princess tries to withstand the power of the lord, who plans to make her his wife when the red star fades.  But Wondertown has the power to change those who enter it and Princess is changing.  She clings to the hope that Rabbit will come for her and save her from what awaits her if she can't escape.

Rabbit is about to learn what a hero really is and it can be anyone who can see and hear a story in its entirety and not allow fears to blind them to parts of it.

Now in case you are why this is a musical story it is not because the various characters break out in song mid-story.  There is a CD that goes along with the book and the CD has songs on it that capture the mood of that particular scene.  The songs don't go for the whole book, but rather take place throughout the book.  The songs go along with the captioned illustrations.

I was provided a digital copy of this book and a CD for the purpose of this review.



ABOUT WONDERTOWN

Wondertown is a full-length fantasy novel from Mac Fallows that includes twelve original songs—each one an extension of the story sung by the characters themselves- and seventeen illustrations from acclaimed illustrator, Emrah Elmasli.
The story centres around Neil Abbott, an undersized, introverted eleven-year old boy with the ability to tell about people by touching their possessions. He doesn’t fit in either at home or at school and rarely speaks to anyone, with the exception of his grandmother, who has a secret talent of her own.
One day, after a particularly difficult week, Neil asks his grandmother if she thinks he’s normal, and she responds by telling him the remarkable story of an unlikely hero, who long ago crossed the five parts of the world to free his only friend from a demon lord. Filled with hidden meaning, vivid images, and songs that bring the characters to life,Wondertown is an unforgettable journey to a place inside each of us few of us dare to go.
PURCHASE:

AMAZON | ITUNES

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Mac FollowsABOUT MAC FALLOWS

Reclusive writer and composer Mac Fallows first began pitching the idea of a musical book for teens and adults to music and book publishers in the late eighties. But without the technology to support his vision, he didn’t get far.
So instead, he set out to travel the world in search of new challenges . . . and stories. He went on to write and produce over 100 songs in a dozen languages in places including Dakar, Mumbai, Prague, and Santiago for singers including Youssou N’dour, Shankar Mahadevan, Pape and Cheikh, and Kavita Krishnamoorthy.
Along the way he lived with taxi drivers and their families, camped in farmers’ fields, butchered bulls, sold tea, raised chickens, translated travel contracts, worked as a session musician, a construction worker, a teacher, and toured the biggest festivals in Europe as a member of one of Africa’s most celebrated bands.​
Wondertown is the first true musical story he’s published. It includes a full-length fantasy novel, 12 related songs and 17 illustrations.

Book Excerpt (First Chapter):

The smell of the rain came first, then the dark clouds, then raindrops so big and sparse you could count them as they splattered against the car and onto the cracked, grey asphalt of the old road. The wind picked up and pushed the rain sideways into the forest that flanked the road as far as you could see north or south. Soon there was nothing but blurred shapes through a window of water, the sound of the wheels churning up the splatter, and the bickering of unhappy parents.

Elizabeth Abbott studied the sky through the passenger-side window. “It’s getting worse.”

 
John Abbott, her husband, let out a short, boiled-over laugh. “Don’t even think about staying the night.”
 
Elizabeth’s face tensed along the jaw line. “Nobody’s asking you to.”
 
“I’d rather get hit head-on.”
 
“You’re such a—” Elizabeth dropped the last word under her breath and checked over her shoulder.
 
John, meanwhile, tapped his thumbs on the centre of the steering wheel like he’d won whatever was up for grabs and pressed his size-fifteen loafer down on the accelerator until his wife ordered him to slow down. They were on their way to Albatross, the seaside village where Constance Arthur, Elizabeth’s mother, lived, John and Elizabeth sitting in the front of the family car and Neil, their son, in the back, same as every Saturday morning for the past three years. It was a ninety-minute drive to the golf-crazed community, and it was even longer in the rain. John and Elizabeth made the trip four times every weekend.

John caught his son’s glance in the rear-view mirror and held it. “You even care that we sacrifice every weekend for you?” he asked.

 
Neil pushed a fingertip against the window and wrote no in the condensation, then rubbed it out and looked through the clear spot at the wall that had suddenly appeared on the far side of the old road. The wall was built of fieldstone, four feet high and three feet wide. It began on the shoreline at the northernmost tip of Albatross and followed the border inland and around the village to the shoreline in the south, stopping for Church Street, the only way in and out of Albatross unless you hopped the wall and came through the forest—or you had a boat. He’d walked the wall from one end to the other—everyone in Albatross had at least once. He remembered how cold it was that day, how tired he was, and how badly he wanted to feel as if he belonged.
 
“Would you slow down?” Elizabeth scowled until John scowled back. “Do you think just once you could make the turn without slamming on your brakes?”
 
John bit into his bottom lip like he was about to pronounce the letter F and accelerated the car. His wife glanced in the direction of his feet and ran her tongue calculatingly around her mouth.
 
“Why do you hate it so much?”
 
“The Oracle, for starters,” John said.
 
Elizabeth sucked in whatever she’d intended to say next and turned back toward the passenger-side window.
 
“You asked.”
 
“You’re right,” Elizabeth said. “And it’s the last time I will.”
 
They turned left onto Church Street past the stone birds that watched over the entrance to the village from each side of the opening in the wall. The birds were supposed to be seagulls, not albatrosses. The village wasn’t named after the large seabird. It was named for the ultimate golf shot, a three-under par: a double eagle, an ace on a par four, an albatross. The great Gene Sarazin had called the shot a dodo, according to Constance Arthur, so apparently, it could have been worse.

John swerved to avoid a man dressed in rain gear and riding a bike just off the gravel shoulder. “Get off the road!”

 
“Oh, for God’s sake! That’s Mr. Edwards!” Elizabeth waved at the man as if she were trying to say “Sorry.”
 
“He’s an idiot.”
 
“He’s eighty years old. Where do you want him to ride?”
 
“Gee, I don’t know—how about somewhere other than in the middle of the road.”
 
Elizabeth exhaled loudly and slouched like a fighter on his stool between rounds as the air leaked out of her. To the back seat, she said, “No sweets this weekend, all right? You’ve had enough this week already.”
 
Neil looked at his mother.
 
“Neil, I’m talking to you.”
 
“I’m not Neil.”
 
“Fine. Do we have a deal, Rabbit?”
 
Neil nodded.
 
“Don’t you think he’s a bit old for that?” John asked.
 
Elizabeth defended her son. “Just leave him alone—he likes it.”
 
“It’s ridiculous.”
 
“Why?”
 
“Rabbit Abbott?”
 
“So? It’s cute.”
 
“Yeah, if you’re three. He’s almost twelve.”
 
Elizabeth made the sort of sound people make when they’ve run out of ways to communicate how exasperated they are. John turned up his palms and shook his head.
 
“Every time we come here, he makes us call him that and you’re okay with it.” 
 
“You just don’t like it because my mother thought it up.”
 
“No, I don’t like it because it’s ridiculous.”
 
“You didn’t have a nickname when you were his age?”
 
“It’s not a nickname. It’s an alter ego.” John hunched forward and squinted at the dark ribbon of sky between the tops of the enormous oak trees lining the road. “God only knows what it really means.” He looked at the road, then back at the sky again, as if he were racing something above them.
 
Neil kicked the back of the driver’s seat lightly with the toe of his shoe. He’d never asked his grandmother why she’d always called him Rabbit; the fact that it rhymed with his last name seemed like reason enough. His father’s comment made him wonder whether there was more to it than that.
 
The car rolled to a stop where Church Street met Beach RoadElizabeth’s gaze skated across the windshield, over the wipers. “No matter how many times you come here, it still takes your breath away,” she said with some reverence, as if daring her husband to disagree with the notion that the view from the end of Church Street in Albatross was the most spectacular in the world.
 
John fiddled with the radio. He didn’t even look up until he'd turned onto Beach Road and the view had shifted to the passenger side.

“No playing on the beach,” 
Elizabeth said to her son. “Not when it’s like this.”
 
Neil unbuckled his seatbelt, as he always did when they reached the ocean.
 
“Don’t go on the rocks, either,” Elizabeth added.
 
“I don’t go on the rocks,” Neil said.
 
“Really?” Elizabeth sounded surprised. “Well, don’t start now, okay?”
 
Albatross sat at the foot of a harbour that was ushered to the open sea by steep, ragged cliffs. The water was dark, as though there were nothing beneath it to stop the storm light and send it back. The shoreline was drawn out of shape by boulders piled on top of each other, the rock stained by reddish algae that turned the strand bloody in the gloom.
 
The village itself was little more than a waterfront surrounded by a collection of small cottages with a private golf course atop the cliffs to the north and a cemetery atop the cliffs to the south. There was none of the contrived decoration that defined the other small towns up and down the coast, nothing to welcome outsiders like John Abbott but a view of the world unlike any other and the salt winds blowing in off the sea.
 
It was the only place Neil felt right. In the city, during the week, he lived in his memories of the sea smell and the gull noise and the overgrown forest and the magic that loomed in the mist of the waves. Then Saturday would arrive, and he’d return to Albatross and come alive again.
 
He used to wonder how his mother could ever have left Albatross to live in a skyscraper on a hill surrounded by big, dull buildings with someone like his father. Then one day he realized that parents made mistakes, that his mother hadn’t meant to end up where she had, and that not everyone could know things about the unseen world, even if their mother could, or their son…
 
It wasn’t the same after that. The words dried up. Even the love dried up. These days he wished his parents would leave him in Albatross and never return.
 
He knew what they wished for.
 
Only Grandmother understands me, Neil thought, tucking his hands under his thighs. She could tell things about the future, so she knew what it was like to be different. That’s why they got along so well. He could tell about people just by touching their possessions. He could know their stories and what scared them. Carrie, a girl in his grade, had burned herself on purpose with a curling iron. He'd found that out by touching her knapsack. And Fat Kenny, one of the lunch monitors, had been stealing money from his own dad’s wallet. He'd learned that from Fat Kenny’s basketball, which Fat Kenny had thrown at him one day during recess. He knew a lot of things, things he shouldn’t know, things he wished he didn’t. Sometimes he’d sit on his hands and think about something else, but it didn’t change much. He still didn’t fit in, not at home or at school or anywhere else for that matter—except in Albatross, with her.