The Neddiad

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When I first picked up “The Neddiad”, I wasn't too interested to read it, judging from the cover. It looked like a children's book, a long shot from my favorite literary fodder. I got from the back cover and inside flap that it was a unique children's book, and that the author was Daniel Pinkwater. I'd never heard of him, but I learned that he reviews children's books on NPR, the type of programming I'm not afraid to admit I enjoy. So, I was willing to give this book a shot.

I ended up liking “The Neddiad” quite a lot, and a lot of it had to do with its randomness. Maybe it's because I'm not used to reading fiction, but the plot was pretty farfetched, in a good way. I'm sure even fiction junkies will find it different from your stereotypical “quest to save the world book.” “The Neddiad” is told in first person, from the viewpoint of Neddie Wentworthstein, a pretty normal kid living in the post-WWII era. His family moves to California, and on the way, he meets a man named Melvin the Shaman, who hands him a small stone turtle. It turns out, that there is an old Indian prophecy surrounding the turtle, a sacred turtle actually- that whoever possesses it will have the duty of saving the world. And the story continues, with Neddie meeting friend, and foe, on his way to California and saving the world.

One thing that surprised me about “The Neddiad” was its lack of action, not common among children's books, or at least the put off of action until near the end of the story. Much of the story is filled with Neddie's very entertaining, laid back description, and actually not a lot of the story is dedicated to the quest, which is the downside. “The Neddiad” also explores many other mature details, like social cliques, personal discovery, and confidence, all included in different situations.

On the other hand, “The Neddiad” is a children's book at heart. There really isn't a lot of extreme emotion, and the story is kind of “fairytale-ish.” Everything always seems to turn out all right, the good guys always win, the bad guys always loose. This disappointed me, because the emotional range is reduced drastically, and everything is so much more predictable. It's like the characters are saying: “Oh no, the world is in danger,” in that half-hearted robot voice.

Another thing I didn't like about the book was the ending. The ending was a huge contrast to the other parts of the book, and when stacked side to side, beginning and middle vs. end, the end seemed pretty rushed. I would have like it a lot more if the author had taken a more balanced approach splitting action and description rather than have the action all sink to the end.

All in all, “The Neddiad” was a pretty satisfying book, even though it did have its downsides. It's changed my perception on children's books, that they are valuable literature too, and to not totally exclude them from my reading. I was surprised to find out later that Daniel Pinkwater has written around 100 books. I'll definitely read some of those too.





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