Overview (No Spoilers):
Despite being neighbors, you could hardly find two children different from the rule-following Avery and free-spirited Zib. Being brought up in social circles that failed to overlap and attending different schools resulted in the two children meeting for the first time when the Universe conspired to jar them from their established routines and thrust them on an adventure of a lifetime.
A few weeks ago I received a review copy of Into the Windwracked Wilds, the third book in the series, The Up-and-Under. So intrigued, I picked up Over the Woodward Wall without knowing anything about Baker or The Up-and-Under.Personally, I never read blurbs or summaries before picking up a book as I often find that they contain too many spoilers. That said, as I was preparing to write this review I was surprised to find out that Baker is actually the pen name of Seanan McGuire. Interestingly, McGuire was inspired to write The Up-and-Under series as supplemental material to her Middlegame novel where she references fairytales written by the fictional Baker. Not being aware of the connection ahead of time and having never read anything by McGuire previously, I thoroughly enjoyed this whimsical, yet dark adventure that one can’t help drawing connections to other children’s tales such as Narnia, Alice and Wonderland, or the Wizard of Oz. Diving into Over the Woodward Wall without knowing anything about the book, I was not expecting the story to be a children’s tale, but the writing and details were fun and playfully wove together to bring to life the unique world of the Up-and-Under in a way that is fun for both children and adults.
The Up-and-Under as a literary world draws parallels to Oz and Wonderland, though it contains plenty of its own unique flavor. As Avery and Zib try to find their way home they are set on a quest along the Improbable Road to find the Queen of Wands, as she is the only one who has the magic to grant their wish. This overarching mission alone is quite similar to the Wizard of Oz, especially as they start collecting an odd group of friends in the Up and Under. The Crow Girl who has given up her name for a pair of wings, struggles with her loyalty and courage. The drowned girl, Naimh, is killing time before being able to return to her family in the underwater city. While their goal seems straight forward, nothing in the Up-and-Under is as it appears, with obstacles popping up around every corner from meddling Kings and Queens to various monsters. Each trying interaction brings the children closer, while making them grow up a little faster.
Overall, Over the Woodward Wall is a fun children’s read with vivid imagery and a plight that will keep readers of all ages entertained. That said, the ending was rather anticlimactic, feeling more like part one of a larger novel instead of a separate entity.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- How much time is passing in the Up-and-Under compared to the real world? We know some time has at least passed because we know their parents are worried.
- What will it mean long term that Avery has lost the shine of his shoes?
- How were Zib and Avery picked for this adventure?
- What favor will the owls ask of Zib?