LONGLIST REVIEW: Ollie's Odyssey

In the secret realm of toys there are many, many mysteries.

There’s the Code of the Toys, which is as ancient as childhood.

There’s also the magic of becoming a child’s favourite, the highest honour in the Toy World.

When Billy was born, he had a small hole in his heart, making him very poorly.  He spent little time with his mother and father during his earliest days, instead being moved from room to room and through a maze of hospital corridors.  As Billy was cared for by the doctors, his parents worried – they were afraid.  To help her cope, Billy’s mother sewed a toy. It wasn’t quite a rabbit nor quite a bear, but rather a strange yet perfectly wonderful blend of the two.  Sewn with immense love, this toy was no ordinary toy; it was to become incredibly special – a toy that matters.  As Billy grew, Ollie was always at his side – his comrade, his partner in crime, his trusted and truest friend.  In fact, Ollie was Billy’s ‘Favourite.’

Little did they know, as they played, adventured and imagined, Billy and Ollie were being watched. Not everything in Toy World is good and pure, there are villains out there too. And the king – Zozo the Clown – is the most feared of all. Zozo sends his henchmen, The Creeps, out to search for Favourites. From the shadows, they watch and wait until the time comes when they steal the Favourite. Zozo has sworn to steal Favourites and keep them imprisoned until they forget their children and become forever lost. Poor Ollie suffers just this fate, dragged down through the tunnels and pipes below the ground and taken far away from Billy. It is up to Billy to rescue his friend from Zozo’s lair, deep underground, in the darkness below the old carnival ground…

Past the park, through the woods and into the night.

Never has a journey of ten blocks been so epic.

‘Ollie’s Odyssey’ is a true adventure, a tale of courage and valour and power of the purest friendship. The text is beautifully crafted, almost poetic at times.  It evokes immense feeling, managing to flit from heart-warming and comforting to sinister. The story drifts seamlessly between the light and charm of Ollie and Billy’s relationship to the darkness of Zozo’s – his creation, his descent into the earth and the beginnings of his hateful plan to ‘toy-nap’ Favourites.  Throughout the book, simply stunning illustrations can be found.  These have the whimsical feel of an old classic, almost like a fairy tale, and complement the story beautifully.

‘Ollie’s Odyssey’ would make a wonderful text for guided reading. Both the vocabulary, text structure and the authentic character voices throughout would drive valuable discussion and analysis. Alongside this, the text offers plenty of inspiration for descriptive writing, character development and storytelling. A fantastic set of guided reading questions for ‘Ollie’s Odyssey’ can be found here.

Ollie's Odyssey by William Joyce

Atheneum Books     ISBN: 978 -1442473553