Based on the myth of Orpheus, Lee’s fantasy novel follows a boy’s quest with his father to retrieve his mother from the afterlife.
Ten-year-old Sam lives with his father, John, in an unquestioned, unvarying routine; “They simply thought of this gray existence as life.” When a blank book is mailed to them, however, Sam discovers that whatever he draws and writes in it becomes real, like when he sketches a lavish tent inhabited by a singing, dancing, wise elephant in Edwardian dress whom he names Lepanto. Playing cards with Lepanto, Sam sees a vision of his mother, who’s whispering, “Come and get me,” although—as he finally learns from John—she died years ago. Encouraged by Lepanto to trust his no-longer-blank book and his imagination, Sam determines to bring his mother back from the Dread City, telling his disbelieving father, “I’m shaping events. And I say we go.” Although Sam and John can count on help from the book and Lepanto, their long journey through the Far Land of Fear is beset with dangers, like agents of the Dread City who want to drag them into despair. Can they succeed where Orpheus failed? In his debut children’s book, poet and playwright Lee writes a wildly imaginative, entertaining adventure story with deep foundations both in the lush realm of mythos and poignant human emotions. Beyond that, Lee dares to give Sam’s quest an ending that takes seriously the elephant’s insistence on the reality of imagination, making the story even more powerful. In her debut book, artist LeBow provides woodcutlike illustrations with rich blacks, curving white lines, and a remarkable, charged sense of mythic power that marries well with the novel.
An extraordinarily beautiful, touching adventure that can stand with the classics of children’s literature.