I love reading middle grade novels. Not only are they quick reads with pictures, but they are usually charming and have the element of teaching so sometimes you learn new words. Recently I have been getting into William Joyce. He wrote the Guardian series (which became the movie Rise of the Guardians), as well as the picture books which inspired Epic and Meet the Robinsons.
His latest middle grade novel is called Ollie’s Odyssey. Ollie is a stuffed rabbit/bear who is a favorite toy of Billy. Much in the same vein as Toy Story, the toys are alive when people aren’t around, except for Billy who can talk to Ollie because they are besties. They are inseparable, doing and learning everything together. What Ollie doesn’t know is that he is being watched by a group of Creeps who steal favorite toys.
One day when Billy goes to a wedding with his parents, Ollie is kidnapped by the Creeps and taken to their leader Zozo, a forgotten carnival prize that was never chosen. Ollie has to try to do everything in his power to escape and get back to Billy. Meanwhile, Billy sneaks out in the cover of darkness to find his lost friend. Will they be reunited or will Ollie become a forgotten toy himself?
This book was a lot of fun to read. It was a simple story. While it is nothing that you haven’t read before, it’s still fresh enough to be enjoyable. The art work is gorgeous, enhancing the reading experience. Joyce always creates beautiful illustrations for his books. This is no exception. Ollie meets all sorts of different toys and objects who help him along in his journey, ranging from other stuffed animals to a tin can who rolls along. This book explores the themes of growing up and how a person changes due to this. While change can be scary, it is nothing to be afraid of, especially if you have good friends to help you through.