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broodings from the burrow

August 22, 2011

into the stacks: peter and max
posted by soe 2:21 am

Once upon a Time ChallengePeter and Max by Bill Willingham with illustrations by Steve Leialoha

From the jacket: “When an unspeakable tragedy befalls a family of traveling minstrels, they become stranded and left for dead. Here in the heart of The Black Forest, Peter Piper and his older brother Max encounter ominous forces that will change them both irreparably. Thus begins an epic tale of sibling rivalry, magic, music and revenge that spans medieval times to the present day when their deadly conflict surfaces in the placid calm of modern-day Fabletown.”

My take: Peter Piper and his wheelchair-bound wife, Bo Peep, live on a farm in upstate New York. Actually, they live on the outskirts of The Farm, which is an annex of Fabletown, the modern New York City neighborhood that is home to all manner of refugees from other, parallel worlds that inspire our fairy tales.

Peter (it was just one pickled pepper, not a whole peck, by the way) and Bo (she does love her sheep) get along pretty well in the modern world until one day Peter is informed that his brother, Max, has been sighted. Gathering intel from the Wolf (still huge and now married to Snow White) and the Witch (who has renounced her more wicked ways and these days is mostly just enigmatic), Peter sets out to track down Max — and to kill him.

Of course, there’s more to the story. Max is also looking to kill Peter. And he means business. Remember the Pied Piper of Hamelin? Cleared the town of rats and then took their kids, too? That was Max. He’s a charming fellow.

In case brotherly intrigue is not enough for you, there’s also a family heirloom in the form of a magic flute; a second, evil flute; a rebounded curse; and a curse on all of Fabletown. Max and Peter’s showdown might be secret, but everyone’s invested in its outcome.

The story, which alternates between Peter’s preparations to find his brother and flashbacks to his childhood and youth, is part of a larger Fabletown oeuvre by author Bill Willingham. I haven’t read the rest, most of which, I believe, are in the form of graphic novels, but this story has piqued my interest. I feel like this novel would be a good recommendation for reluctant teen readers, as it has the pacing of a comic, but in the fleshed out format of a novel. It would also be a good read for anyone who enjoys fairy tales or those who like alternate takes of classic stories.

Pages: 389

This was my fifth and final book for this spring’s Once upon a Time Challenge.

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