Ollie thought of every trick he’d ever seen in every battle movie he and Billy had watched and in every book that had been read to them. “Okay!” he commanded. “Our plan is gonna be: do some Robin Hood, and some Use the Force Luke, and some Trojan Horse, and some…Yellow Submarine.” – Ollie’s Odyssey, William Joyce
Ollie is a Homemade, a toy filled with love and care from the day he was made. He’s also Billy’s favorite, the Captain of all of Billy’s toys and playthings. But one afternoon, Ollie is stolen by the Creeps, a gang of abandoned toys led by the evil clown Zozo, and Billy has to go off on an A-Venture to get him back.
William Joyce, beloved author of the Guardians of Childhood series (The Man in the Moon, The Sandman, Jack Frost) and more, brings the world of toys to life in Ollie’s Odyssey. From Ollie to Zozo, Nina, Pegasus, and Pet Rock, every toy has a personality, full of all the variation of a child’s imagination. Ollie, the sweet “teddy rabbit” with a bell for a heart, reminded me of my favorite toy as a child–a doll I called Emily, whose tag I stroked to fall asleep at night. Ollie has tenacity and courage in spades, leading a charge to rescue his Billy. But Billy, too, has courage, as he steps out of his house on his own to find his beloved favorite toy.
Anyone who has ever loved a toy can see something of themselves in Billy and Ollie. Some of us may even see ourselves in the despotic Zozo, twisted and hurt by his own losses. Zozo the clown is a wonderful villain for a chapter book–at turns terrifying and cruel, but also desperate and lonely, seeking very little more than to be loved himself as Ollie is loved. Joyce’s toy characters are all wonderfully human, after everything, and their desires are human desires.
Joyce’s marvelous illustrations are the icing on the cake, as always. Ollie, Zozo, The Creeps, and Nina all come to life on the page. My favorite pages feature Zozo and Ollie facing off against one another, Ollie standing tall even while Zozo menaces him. The tension is just right.
It’s true that I like my children’s books creepy; I have a particular fondness for things like The Thickety and Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods. And it’s true, Ollie’s Odyssey has no small measure of creepiness, from the decrepit Zozo to the abandoned carnival in which he lives. But that creepiness is borne out by the care and love between a boy and his favorite toy, something with which we are all familiar.
William Joyce will be speaking and signing Ollie’s Odyssey here at BookPeople on Wednesday, July 6th at 6PM. Join us for a wonderful event, and see for yourself the marvelous world of Billy and Ollie.
Demi is the BookKids Event and Marketing Coordinator. In addition to the doll called Emily, her favorite toys included a huge stuffed Elmo doll and a giant Mickey Mouse, to whom she used to read stories.