Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Weslandia: An Oldie, but Such a Goodie

Writing about the Dunderheads yesterday got me thinking about another Paul Fleischman book that's been in demand around here for many years. Weslandia, published in 1999, came to us via a Scholastic Warehouse Sale. It became an instant favorite.

It's the story of a boy who doesn't fit in -- wrong interests, wrong haircut, just...wrong. But instead of trying to make himself over in the image of the crowd, he veers off in his own direction for the summer, starting a garden full of a single mysterious plant. From this plant (which a neighbor tells him is a weed that should be pulled) Wesley begins to create a fantastic world. Shelter, food, clothing, ink, utensils, a sport and even a language all grow out of this beautiful (and huge) plant in his backyard.

Wesley's world is helped along by Kevin Hawkes' lush paintings. They're so inviting, you just want to step into them and hide in the cool shade of Wesley's plants. Wesley's imagination is equally the end of the book, all the neighborhood kids who used to bully him, are lining up to be Wesley's friends.

Yeah, it's fantasy, but it's fantasy of the best kind. Wesley stays true to himself, pursues the course he's decided on, and reaps the rewards at the end. And you can't help rooting for him and wishing you could do something similar.

Weslandia is still available in paperback, and should be readily available at your public library.

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