Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Review: Jabberwocky by Daniel Coleman

Jabberwocky by Daniel Coleman is the story behind the well-beloved poem by Lewis Carrol of the same name. Full of nonsense words, valor and whimsy, the poem Jabberwocky tells of a boy who sets out to fight the might beast and who returns triumphant, bearing the head of the great monster. But the poem doesn't tell us anything about the boy, where he comes from or why he sets out to hunt the Jabberwock and Coleman uses this story here to fill in some of the blanks.

My family has always been involved in theater, and my family reunions often include some form of a talent show, sometimes planned and scripted, other times completely spontaneous. Often in the performances, my dad would go on-stage with my grandpa and together they would perform this poem. My grandpa would stand in front and recite the poem, while my dad stood behind, using his arms, in place of my grandpa's to act out the poem (this included lifting up my grandpa's hair piece when they reached the part of the poem where the boys slays the Jabberwock and removes his head, much to my grandpa's dismay)

So, when I heard about this book, I knew that I wanted to read it. I love that poem, partly because it is brilliant but also because it brings back a lot of wonderful memories of my family. This is a very short book, just over 100 e-pages, and it reads very quickly. However, I don't think it would read as smoothly for someone who is unfamiliar with either nonsense writing or the poem itself.

One of my favorite things about this book is also what I think will be most challenging for most readers. Coleman has taken the words of the poem like 'wabe', 'brillig' and 'mimsy'. None of these words actually means anything, but Coleman took them from the original poem, took the meaning from them that he chose and inserted them into his story and I personally think he did a phenomenal job. Partly because the writing was very smooth, and partly because I'm very familiar with the poem, I found myself without any trouble being able to guess to the meaning of each word as I went through, even if I didn't know exactly what they meant. However, Coleman does include a glossary with the book, so if you think you will have trouble picking up on what the words mean, or you find yourself confused, he does include a way to verify what each word means.

Another thing that I loved about the book was the inclusion of the poem itself. Each section of the book is prefaced by a stanza of the poem, offering some foreshadowing of what is yet to come. I thought it was the perfect way to incorporate the poem into the story without being awkward or forced.

And the story itself was wonderful. Our main character, Tjaden, is the perfect boy to seek the Jabberwock. He is brave, but smart and fiercely determined to prove himself a man. He's a little bit full of himself at times, and he takes life a little too seriously for someone so young but he is also a very likable character, one you would want on your side of life. Honorable and proud, if given the right motivation, he could face the Jabberwock alone.

Honestly, I could not have been happier with how this book turned out. I was almost worried about reading it, because I do have such fond memories of the poem, but I was beyond delighted with how the book turned out. Coleman did a fabulous job combining his own story with the tale from Lewis Carroll and it's one I can see myself reading again.

I will admit that part of why I enjoyed this book so much comes from the memories it brought to surface and the already positive tone I have toward the poem and anything tied to it. I tend to be extremely fond of anything that can bring back positive memories of my grandpa, which means I knew before I started reading that this is a book I would either love or hate.

That being said, however, the happy memories alone were not enough to make me like this book. The story and the writing were able to hold their own and they most certainly did this favored poem a great justice. I'm not always a huge fan of how other people reimagine stories already told but I thought this one was just about as perfect as it gets.

So thank you Daniel Coleman, for writing a story worthy of such a phenomenal poem.