Today is the official release day for The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, by a friend of the Rabbit Room, Jennifer Trafton. A few quick reasons you should buy this book:
1) For starters, that’s a great title. Go ahead. Say it aloud to yourself. There’s rhythm, alliteration, and it evokes a sense of strange, adventurous beauty. You may think I’m overstating my case, but that’s the best way I know to describe how I felt when I first laid eyes on this book.
2) The artwork! I’m a bit of a nerd about book illustration. Some of you know I’m a big fan of Justin Gerard, Cory Godbey, Chris Koelle, and a lot of what Portland Studios produces. I love a picture that tells a story. Well, now that my son Aedan is into illustration too, the two of us peruse the websites of Tony DiTerlizzi (The Spiderwick Chronicles), Adam Rex (Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich), and the great Brett Helquist (Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events) to study their techniques and to geek out over cool pictures. As soon as I saw Mount Majestic I recognized Brett Helquist’s beautiful work on the cover and was delighted to discover illustrations in every chapter. Cool illustrations, too. Drawings of creepy, violent turtles, knights, weird elfish creatures, and an ornery-looking boy king. That Brett Helquist illustrated this book is what we in the book business call a Big Deal. It must have been expensive to secure his services, and the publisher must have believed a lot in the book to have hired him.
3) Jennifer Trafton. She came to Hutchmoot 2010 and chopped celery with my wife and Evie Coates in the kitchen. That makes her awesome.
4) The story and the writing are superb. This is the biggest one for me. Lots of books have great covers, great titles, and are written by people who occasionally chop celery, but they aren’t well written or rich in beauty. But Mount Majestic is both of those things. Jennifer’s sentences are playful and deft, and it’s clear that she cares about words. She cares about the sound of them and the aesthetic of a sentence. I read somewhere that Annie Dillard said she wasn’t interested in writing good books, but good sentences, and I think there’s something to that. My favorite writers aren’t just the ones that are telling the truth, but the ones who are telling it beautifully.
5) She makes up names like “Guafnoggle” and dreams up walking mangroves and underground kingdoms, and, yes, poisonous turtles. The story is about Persimmony Smudge’s discovery of a giant asleep under the kingdom, and her desperate struggle to keep it asleep lest it wake and destroy everything. It reads like a modern day fairy tale, so it felt familiar. But right up to the last chapter I had no idea how the book would end. The book is thick with wonder, from the illustrations to the cover and dustjacket, to the moment when Persimmony first sees the sleeping giant.
It’s a great story for read-aloud, for your 8-and-up kids, and even for the grownups. I loved it as much as my 12-year-old did. So thanks, Jennifer, for following your nose and writing a moving, memorable tale. Oh! And congratulations, from the Rabbit Room, on your book release. day. Pick up your copy here.