The artifacts pictured on the cover made me pick the book up from the Barnes and Nobles display table. Once I opened the book and saw the dotted lines and arrows leading from the text to marginalia on practically every other page, I was sold. So, the appeal to The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet was to my left, analytical brain. How surprised I was then to learn; my right brain would be even more stimulated by this fictional tale of imagination.
T.S. Spivet is a twelve-year old boy genius map maker and scientist. He draws zoological, geological, topographical and insect anatomy maps as well as maps of people doing things. Tecumseh Sparrow grows up on a ranch in a disfunctional family just outside of Divide, Montana. Dad's a rancher, mom (Dr. Clair) is a Coleopterist and sister Gracie is a sixteen-year old wanna be actress. Younger brother Layton had recently died in an accident. The family is rounded out by Verywell, the dog.
One day T.S. receives a phone call from the Smithsonian Institute informing him that he'd recently won the Spencer F. Baird award for popular advancement of science. Not knowing that he is a twelve-year old, the Smithsonian invites T.S. to Washington DC to receive the award. A defining moment on the ranch convinces T.S. to begin a solo journey of adventure and self-discovery as he intends to make his way across the country to accept the award and give a speech. And so the story goes...
T.S. makes maps to understand and make sense of things in his world. I can ever so relate. Yes I love the book's tactility and visual presentation. But when I learned the why behind T.S.'s mapping, I couldn't stop turning the pages. I write to try and understand things. Maybe the little man would help my own distillation process. I wasn't disappointed.
A couple of the things that critics whined about in this book are especially irritating to me. They find it unbelievable that a twelve-year-old boy talks like a Phd, yet they have no problem that there is a functioning wormhole in the Midwest and that a Winnebago RV converses with T.S. It's fictional imagination folks, lighten up. And about that marginalia. Why spank Reif Larsen for something that breaks free from the weighted monotony of status-quo? I find the notes and illustrations depicted in the margins as tributaries of knowledge, enlightenment and begging for exploration. Not to mention, the over-sized margins provide me with ample room to include my own thoughts and notes.
One other thing that the critics got their panties in a bunch about is the notebook that T.S. took from his mom and read on the trip cross country. Dr. Clair writes about Emma Osterville, T.S.'s great, great grandmother on his dad's side. If you end up reading this book and come to this section, just read it through the window of T.S. gaining insight towards his mom and his own inner-scientist. I loved the connection that this section provided T.S. to his history. And Emma Osterville? A book could be written on her alone. Reif?
This book was smoked-n-signed.