Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

maddy-kettle-100dpi_lgMaddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch, by Eric Orchard. Illustrated.

Marietta, GA, Top Shelf Productions, August 2014, softcover $14.95 (89 [+ 2] pages).

This is a softcover children’s fantasy in the tradition of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: a young girl has adventures in a magic world full of talking animals. It is in the publisher’s “Kids Club” series, but like all the best children’s fantasies, it is really for all ages.

Eleven-year-old Maddy Kettle was happy, living in her parents’ bookstore/house in the Western-looking town of Dustcloud Gap. Her pet musical floating spadefoot toad, Ralph (she tethered him on a string, like a balloon), made her popular with all of the other schoolkids. But one night Maddy woke up and saw the Thimblewitch flying away from their home, and when she went downstairs to investigate, she found her parents turned into talking kangaroo rats. Her father refused to let her chase after the witch to cure them, insisting that it was too dangerous. But after the witch’s spider goblins kidnap the kangaroo rats and Ralph, there is nothing to keep her from going after them.

She is not alone for long. Harry the bear and Silvio the banjo-playing raccoon, two cloud cartographers in their aerial balloon, are her first allies. Friendly vampire bats help them ascend to the Thimblewitch’s mountaintop castle, guarded by scarecrows – but they’re all asleep. What Maddy finds when she enters the castle is not what she expects, and results in her further exploits. At the conclusion, Maddy’s parents become human again, but she and Ralph must follow the lost magic that turned them into kangaroo rats. Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch does not say so itself, but it is listed in the Top Shelf catalogue as “Book 1” in the series.

The 7 3/16” x 9” book’s soft binding (with French flaps) and the story’s being in full-color graphic art have resulted in some reviewers calling this a comic book. It is betwixt and between a graphic novel and a children’s picture book. Its major appeal is Spectrum Award-winning Eric Orchard’s surrealistic artwork. All the humans have impossibly tiny necks and huge heads; the setting is the arid West with steampunk vehicles, notably the Thimblewitch’s flying boat; and there are enough talking animals, including the transformed Kettles, to please all furry fans. If this was a hardcover, public libraries would certainly get it. As it is, you may have to look for it in both regular bookshops and comics shops.

maddy-28-crop(If you are not familiar with the Spectrum Awards, they “celebrate the best in art and design in the fields of fantasy and science fiction, as selected by a peer jury of working artists.” There is an annual Spectrum collection of s-f and fantasy art that has been a must-buy for devotees of high-quality art since 1994. Orchard won a silver (second place) award in the Comics category in 2010 for his “Cloud Cave 3” painting; the basis of one of the pages in Maddy Kettle. It is included in “Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art”, volume 17.)

– Fred Patten