Toby Alone

Toby Alone

4.9 9
by Timothee de Fombelle, Francois Place
     
 

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Now in paperback! A Lilliputian world. A tree under threat. A boy hunted by his own people must protect his father's secrets in a gripping and witty eco-adventure.

Toby Lolness may be just one and a half millimeters tall, but he’s the most wanted person in his world—the world of the great oak Tree. Toby’s father has made a groundbreaking

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Overview

Now in paperback! A Lilliputian world. A tree under threat. A boy hunted by his own people must protect his father's secrets in a gripping and witty eco-adventure.

Toby Lolness may be just one and a half millimeters tall, but he’s the most wanted person in his world—the world of the great oak Tree. Toby’s father has made a groundbreaking discovery: the Tree itself is alive, flowing with vital energy, and there may be a world beyond it. Greedy developers itch to exploit this knowledge, risking permanent damage to their natural world. Toby’s family has been exiled to the lower branches, and only Toby has managed to escape—but for how long? And how can he bear to leave his parents to their terrible fate?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The impressive debut novel from French playwright de Fombelle deftly weaves mature political commentary, broad humor and some subtle satire into a thoroughly enjoyable adventure. The people of the Tree are two millimeters tall or less, but their society mimics ours. Industrialists keep digging holes, politicians play dirty games and scientists conduct research to discover the nature of the world in which they live. Toby Lolness, the son of a renowned scientist, is forced to become a fugitive when his father's discoveries reveal the dangers presented by the continued development of the Tree. Toby's story is revealed in flashbacks as he runs from the cronies of Joe Mitch, a builder who has rapidly become a political powerhouse. Mitch's machinations have turned the Tree into a totalitarian society in which reading and writing are banned, and only Toby remains free to try to rescue his parents and bring down Mitch and his crew. It's hard not to see some of the book's antecedents-the Borrowers, the Littles, etc.-but de Fombelle has built a unique world with a fully developed social and political structure. Ages 9-up. (Mar.)

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Children's Literature - Anita Barnes Lowen
Toby Lolness is on the run in a world where a stray raindrop can have the impact of a tsunami. He is on the run in a world where one time friends and neighbors are all too willing to betray a young boy in exchange for a suitcase full of money. Toby is only one and a half millimeters tall but he is in big, big trouble. His father, famous scientist and inventor, has discovered that their world, the Tree itself, is alive. But the Tree's survival is threatened by greedy Joe Mitch who is willing to exploit their arboreal home no matter what the consequences. From their idyllic life in Treetop, Toby and his parents are exiled to the Low Branches. When his father persists in his stubborn refusal to reveal the secret of the Tree's energy, the three are arrested. Only his father's quick thinking gives Toby the chance to escape. With Joe Mitch's men hot on his trail, Toby is hidden first by his friend Elisha and then finds sanctuary with the mysterious Grass People. There Toby learns that it is all too likely that his father will hand over the secret of the Tree's energy and Joe Mitch will destroy the Tree for good. An excellent read with obvious parallels to today's ecological concerns. The pages are filled with an incredible cast of characters ranging from Joe Mitch and his sidekicks, Razor and Torn, to the eccentric but brilliant Professor Lolness. Illustrated with clever pen and ink drawings. Remove and unfold the book jacket to "reveal a poster map of Toby's world." Reviewer: Anita Barnes Lowen
School Library Journal

Gr 4-8

Toby Lolness, 13, is a mere 1.5 millimeters tall but he has a big heart, big dreams, and is in really big trouble. After his scientist father discovers that the oak tree on which their people live is actually alive and in danger because of the destructive digging and building Joe Mitch and the Neighborhood Committee have been engaged in, Toby and his family escape to the Lower Branches. When they are followed and captured by Mitch's minions, Toby is the only member of his family who manages to escape and, alone, must endure extreme hardship, betrayal, and loss. Fantastical situations, appealing characters, and whimsical illustrations help carry the book, but the overriding themes of disregard for the environment and the denunciation of the "grass people" as the enemy are written with such a heavy hand that readers will quickly tire of the propaganda. Toby Alone is the first volume in a two-part novel that received much acclaim when originally published in France in 2006.-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK

Kirkus Reviews
An adventurous fable stars a miniscule hero facing massive ordeals. Toby may be not quite 13 years old and only one-and-a-half millimeters tall, but he has made a lot of enemies. When his scientist father declares that the Tree their people call "home" is not only alive but also endangered by their civilization, the whole family is exiled, then arrested, then sentenced to death. Now Toby is on the run from an entire world that sees him as a threat to their way of life. The obvious ecological allegory, while never heavy-handed, remains the thread weaving together lengthy flashbacks, asides and foreshadowing into a twining plot, featuring dozens of swiftly sketched, memorably idiosyncratic characters. The narrative voice dances on the razor's edge between fey and twee, gliding effortlessly from grotesque farce to sly satire to nail-biting suspense to thrilling escapes, shocking violence and heartbreaking betrayal, while Place's delicate pen-and-ink doodles offer marginal commentary. While abrupt, the conclusion provides both a satisfying culmination to Toby's character arc and an edge-of-the-seat cliffhanger for the promised sequel. Witty, original and devastatingly entertaining. (Fantasy. 10 & up)
From the Publisher
"An adventurous fable stars a minuscule hero facing massive ordeals. . . .
Witty, original, and devastatingly entertaining." — Kirkus Reviews - Starred review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780763651800
Publisher:
Candlewick Press
Publication date:
08/10/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
1,261,719
Lexile:
760L (what's this?)
File size:
8 MB

Read an Excerpt

Tracked Down

2Toby was just one and a half millimeters tall, not exactly big for a boy of his age. Only his toes were sticking out of the hole in the bark where he was hiding.

Looking up through the enormous russet-colored leaves to the starry sky above, Toby felt there had never been a night as dark and shiny as this one. When there's no moon, the stars dance more brightly. Even if there is a sky in Heaven, he told himself, it couldn't possibly be as deep or as magical as this.

Toby began to calm down. Lying with his head resting on the moss, he could feel his hair wet with cold tears. He was tucked inside a hole in the black bark. His leg was injured, he had cuts on both shoulders, and his hair was matted with blood. His hands were stinging from being ripped by thorns, but the rest of his tiny body was numb with pain and exhaustion.

His life had ended a few hours earlier, so what was he still doing here? That's what people used to ask him, when he poked his nose in everywhere: "Still here, Toby?" Today, he kept whispering it to himself: "Still here?"

But he was definitely alive, and his misery was even vaster than the sky. He was staring at the sky in the same way he used to cling to his parents' hands in a crowd. If I close my eyes, he thought, I'll die. But his eyes stayed wide open, behind two lakes of muddy tears.

Then he heard them. And in a flash the fear was back. There were four of them: three adults and a teenager. The teenager was holding a torch to light their way.

"He can't be far. I'm sure he's not far."

"He must be caught. He has to pay too. Like his parents."

The eyes of the third man shone yellow in the night. He spat, then said, "We'll get him, you'll see, and we'll make him pay."

More than anything, Toby wanted to wake up from this nightmare; he wanted to run over to his parents' bed, and cry and cry....He would have given anything to go through to their bright kitchen together, still in his pajamas, where they'd make him a hot honey drink with cookies and say, "It's over now, Toby sweetheart. It's all right."

Instead, Toby was trembling at the bottom of a hole, trying to tuck in his sticky-out toes. Toby was only thirteen, but he was being hunted by the whole Tree, by his own people, and what he could hear was much worse than the cold, scary night.

What he could hear was a voice he loved, the voice of his oldest friend, Leo Blue.

Once, when he was four and a half, Leo had tried to steal Toby's lunch, and they'd ended up sharing everything ever since - good things and things that weren't so funny. Leo lived with his aunt. Both his parents had died. All he had left of his father, the famous explorer El Blue, was a wooden boomerang. But his misfortune had made Leo Blue very strong, deep down inside. This brought out the best in him, and the worst too. Toby preferred the best: Leo's intelligence and bravery. The boys became inseparable. There was a time when people even called them Tobyleo, as if it was just one name.

One day, when Toby and his parents were due to move house, down to the Low Branches, Tobyleo hid in a dry bud because they didn't want to be split up. It was two days and three nights before they were found. It was one of the rare occasions when Toby saw his father cry.

But tonight, Toby was curled up alone in his bark hole - was this really the same Leo Blue standing just a few paces away, brandishing his flare against the dark? Toby felt his heart exploding when his best friend shouted, "We'll get you! We'll get you, Toby!"

Leo's voice rang out from branch to branch. It brought back a vivid memory.

When he was tiny, Toby had had a tame greenfly called Lima. Toby used to climb on Lima's back, before he could even walk. One day, out of nowhere, the greenfly stopped playing - it bit Toby hard and shook him like a scrap of rag. The creature had gone crazy, and Toby's parents had to separate them. Toby could still remember that look in Lima's eyes, his pupils grown fat as a pond in the rain.

His mother had said to Toby, "Today it was Lima, but anyone could turn crazy one day."

"We'll get you, Toby!"

When he heard that wild cry again, Toby knew that Leo's eyes must be as terrifying as a crazy animal's. Like ponds swollen by the rain.

The small troop was getting nearer, tapping the bark with wooden spears to feel for cracks and hollows. They were looking for Toby. It was like the White Ant Hunt, when fathers and sons set out every spring to drive the pests to the Far Branches.

"I'll make him come out of his hole."

The voice was so close, Toby could almost feel the speaker's warm breath. He didn't dare move or shut his eyes. The beating spears were coming toward him through the flame-swept darkness.

A spear crashed down, landing only a finger's width away from his face. Toby was paralyzed with fear but kept his eyes glued to the patch of sky he could see in between the hunters' shadows. This time they had him. It was over.

Suddenly, night fell all around again.

"Hey! Leo! Did you let the torch go out?" an angry voice shouted.

"It fell. Sorry, the torch fell. . . ."

"You idiot!"

The group's only torch had gone out; the search would have to continue in the pitch black.

"We're not giving up now. We'll get him."

Another man had caught up with the first and was rummaging around the cracks in the bark. He was so near, Toby could feel the air moving. The second man must have been drinking, because he stank of alcohol and his movements were violent and clumsy.

"I'll catch him myself. I'm going to chop him up into little pieces. And then we'll tell the others we couldn't find him."

The other man laughed as he turned to his hunting companion.

"Doesn't change, does he? He killed forty white ants last spring!"

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