Barbara's Random Thoughts

Monday, April 07, 2008

Kneeknock Rise, Natalie Babbitt

I thought I was going to love this book. Halfway through, I was sure I was going to love it. It ended up leaving me with a lot of thoughts, but mixed feelings. The fact that this brief children's book left me thinking quite deeply is a sign of how good the book was, but still. I think I wanted something different out of it in the end.

One of the blurbs on the back of the book describes it as a "new folktale," and that's probably an apt description. The story tells the tale of a boy named Egan as he visits the town of Instep. Instep is situated at the base of Kneeknock Rise--a mountain that is continually shrouded in mist, home to the Megrimum, a fearsome creature that moans frightfully during rainstorms. The town's inhabitants have all kinds of superstitions about how to protect themselves from the Megrimum, and as Kneeknock Rise is the most exciting thing for miles around, there's a certain level of pride mixed in with their fear of the beast on the mountain. Kneeknock Rise acts as somewhat of a tourist attraction each year when Instep puts on a fair and travelers arrive hoping to hear the Megrimum. The reader is introduced to the monster and the legends surrounding it through the eyes of an outsider, as Egan tries to figure out exactly what it is that lurks at the top of Kneeknock Rise.

The book ultimately explores the nature of mystery and belief. Why do we believe? Is it because we need to believe in something, regardless of logic and fact and reason? Or is there something more to it than that?

One of the visitors to Instep describes what draws him to the town and away from his everyday life:
It's the knowing there's something different, something special up there waiting. It's the knowing you could choose to change your days--climb up there and throw yourself right down the throat of the only and last and greatest terrible secret in the world. Except you don't climb up.
I loved that description--the desire for the mystery and the wonder of something utterly unknown. The fear of it, and yet the desire to keep it close, just in case. Because: you could. Or you might. One day.

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| posted by Barbara | 8:08 AM |