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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, quirky coming-of-age novel
Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet is a twelve-year-old genius living on a farm in the midwest. His mother, Dr. Clair, is a scientist searching for a rare beetle. His father is a farmer and cowboy. T.S. likes to think of himself as a mapmaker. He doesn't just draw maps of land, though, he draws maps of everything from facial expressions to gunshots. One day, he takes a phone...
Published on 5 May 2009 by M. K. Burton

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A good treat!
Wonder what the movie will look like... And the first part, when he is still at home or during his journey, is definetely the best.
Published 12 months ago by Bastien Wauthoz


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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, quirky coming-of-age novel, 5 May 2009
By 
M. K. Burton - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (Hardcover)
Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet is a twelve-year-old genius living on a farm in the midwest. His mother, Dr. Clair, is a scientist searching for a rare beetle. His father is a farmer and cowboy. T.S. likes to think of himself as a mapmaker. He doesn't just draw maps of land, though, he draws maps of everything from facial expressions to gunshots. One day, he takes a phone call from the Smithsonian Institute and discovers that he has been selected for the prestigious Baird award, for which his friend Dr. Yorn has nominated him. That phone call prompts T.S. to sneak on trains in his quest to get to Washington, D.C., to give a speech and accept his award. Along the way, he meets a number of strange characters and makes a series of important realizations about his life, his age, and most importantly, his family.

I'm not sure there are words to describe how I felt about this book. I haven't seen many blog reviews around and I'm really wondering why. This book is phenomenal. T.S. is a stunning character. He is clearly a genius but clearly a child at the same time; he makes amazing conclusions but then his child-logic can't always keep up with his scientific mind. I found this fascinating. I'm no genius, but I truly felt that with T.S. I was having a peek into the mind of someone like Stephen Hawking, although much more understandable.

This book isn't for people who dislike footnotes, though. Me, I love footnotes, and this book is full of them, although usually on the sides, along with T.S.'s maps and observations. In my opinion, these little asides added immeasurably to the main story even if they required me to read a little bit slower. They flesh out this little boy's world and show us how he works, who he is friends with, and sometimes illuminate larger questions in the novel; for example, his facial diagrams allow us to see the way his father appears when he looks at T.S. in a way that words could not really match. The maps allows us to slowly feel the depths of pain which T.S. has been experiencing since his brother, Layton, killed himself; so much is revealed in that sibling relationship not through words, but through the implied sharing and affection in certain maps and footnotes. My favorite of all of the asides, though, was probably the three-prong diagram of why McDonald's appeals to adolescent boys.

I also really, really loved the backstory behind T.S.'s family which is covered towards the middle of the book in sections which were from a notebook T.S. stole from his mother. Having had no inkling of his mother's writing talent, T.S. is startled to discover that she has been writing a novel of the life of one of his ancestors. I loved this story-within-a-story, both because it felt like historical fiction, my favorite genre, and because it revealed so much to T.S. about his mother, who has many more secrets than she lets on. I can't say that it moved the plot forward, but I never minded at all.

In the end, this was a wonderful, quirky, endearing story about a boy who figures out what his family means to him and, in the meantime, starts to grow up on his journey east. It might not be for everyone, considering the lengthy footnotes and digressions from the main plot, but I loved every minute, especially after T.S. sets off. I was in the mood for an ambitious story and I certainly got one. I can't recommend this book highly enough.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical and original, 4 May 2009
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This review is from: The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (Hardcover)
This is a very original book. The story of an eleven year old invited to take up a position with the Smithsonian Institute, who don't realise he is only a child. It is illustrated throughout with his doodles and maps because he's obsessed with mapping out and detailing everything he comes across, in order to help him make sense of life. At times, particularly at the beginning, you might think this is a children's book but the more you read the more you appreciate the worldliness and poignancy of his voice. Given that all the illustrations were done by the author this is a massive feat of both writing and art and I highly recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good read, very detailed, descriptive and delightful language. Good story., 19 July 2014
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Note yet finished the book but I am thoroughly enjoying it - a good read. It's fun an beautifully illustrated with many marginal notes - T.S.'s thoughts and illustrated diagrams and plans. These make the book very unusual. Beautiful language used and very descriptive - "there was the smell of the train itself, the spiralic fumes of oil and grease and metal grinding....it was a funny mixture of smells, but after a while...this landscape of olfaction gently faded back into the canvas of perception..."
Good story so far.

K
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4.0 out of 5 stars marvellously inventive novel, 11 May 2014
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Love this novel. I saw the film before I'd read it. Both are hugely enjoyable. If you like Wes Anderson kind of American Whimsy (I love it), you may well like this.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A good treat!, 3 July 2013
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This review is from: The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (Hardcover)
Wonder what the movie will look like... And the first part, when he is still at home or during his journey, is definetely the best.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual illustrated book, 18 Feb 2013
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I bought this for a friend as I had read it from the library. A really intriguing unusual story from a child's point of view, illustrated with technicallly excellent drawings!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Selected Works of T.S.Spivet, 16 Nov 2012
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This is a fabulous book for children and adults to dive in and get completely lost in a fantastic world, which could be real, or maybe not ... lovely layout, great to read on the sides and the drawings. Laughed a lot and couldn't put it aside. The end is a bit dull, or what I didn't expect - but I think, it is very difficult indeed to find a fitting ending for a book like this. Highly recommend it, bought several as gifts and forwarded my own on !
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5.0 out of 5 stars genius, 4 Dec 2011
This review is from: The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (Hardcover)
A wonderful book with very interesting characters which pull you in and completely surrounds you in this funny boys world. There are little foot notes and illustrations along the way which add depth to this gem of a book.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fails in so many ways, 8 Feb 2010
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (Hardcover)
The Selected Works Of TS Spivet - A Novel fails in so many ways. Yet there is still just about enough to it to justify the effort of reading it.

The book has three distinct sections - each so different they could have come from separate novels. In the first section, TS Spivet introduces himself as a gifted 12 year old mapmaker, living in Montana with a cowboy father and a frustrated scientist for a mother. He has a regular teenage sister, and a brother, Layton, who died in a shooting accident. The action in this section - the only action - is a telephone call from the Smithsonian Institute offering TS a prize fellowship for his scientific drawings in the mistaken belief that TS is an adult academic.

The section grinds so slowly. There's scant plot anyway, but the book's main quirk is the stream of marginalia which offers digressions within digressions. Although some of these are illustrated, even occasionally amusing, most are just sections of text that could just as well have been included in the main body of the text. A quirk for a quirk's sake. And a further problem the author faces is that having created a prizewinning graphic artist, the illustrations fail to deliver. They are mostly line sketches with random dotted lines, circles and angles that show precisely nothing. But they create a spurious impression of science, perhaps.

And then there's the narrative voice. For a 12 year old, TS is both remarkably prescient and remarkably gauche. Most of the time he speaks like an adult; thinks like an adult; draws like an adult. He is a prodigy, although not a very credible one. But then, on the next page, TS will be talking to a motorhome or playing with a toy from a McDonalds Happy Meal. This is not like any 12 year old I have ever met.

The middle section turns into a road story. TS stows away on trains to head for Washington DC to collect his fellowship - having told nobody about it for no apparent reason. He gets into scrapes and spills aplenty whilst reading a tedious family history apparently written by his mother. The high point of this family history is that it is typed in a slightly bigger font and, for the most part, the marginalia stops.

Then, the nadir. The third section sees TS arrive in Washington DC and take up his fellowship. The action starts to come thick and fast. We see life threatening injuries; life saving operations; fantasy; conspiracy theories; secret tunnels and all. There are continuity errors aplenty. Any semblance of credibility that might have been built up in previous sections is simply dispelled. Oh, and the marginalia takes off again with a vengeance.

So what's going on? Perhaps the clue is in the title of the German translation of the book: Die Karte Meiner Traeume - The Maps Of My Dreams.

So, we have a dull, bitty story that crumbles the further it goes. The marginalia is ultimately pretty dull and the arrows telling you what to read and when make it a thin disguise of a continuous text. The characterization is poor. But there's still something that keeps the reader going to the bitter end. A toss up between two and three stars - perhaps the overall feel of the book nudges it up to three.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, but flawed, 15 Jun 2009
By 
Peter Lee (Manchester ,United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (Hardcover)
It looks amazing - an oversized hardback, filled with illustrations in the margins, endpapers and on the chapter titles, and the detail is just incredible. You could happily spend a few hours flicking through the pages, looking at the sketches and maps.

But what of the story? Sadly, this is where the book disappoints.

The book tells the story of Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet, a twelve year-old boy who loves to draw maps and plans. A friend of his family sends some of TS's maps to the Smithsonian on Washington DC and, to his surprise, TS is invited to speak at an event as he has won a major award for his work. He proceeds to travel across America to the event on his own by hiding on freight trains, his family unaware of his passage.

The first section deals with TS's home life, and we read of the death of his brother, Layton (whose name TS hides in many of his maps - look out for it) in an accident with a rifle. The book is extremely good here, drawing the reader in, and although the book's primary failing - more on that later - is immediately apparent, it is still immersive.

The middle section drags badly. TS rides across the country in a winnebago inside a freight train, and the book slows to a crawl. This may be intentional, the author trying to illustrate TS's boredom by also boring the reader a little, but my word, it drags. TS reads from a notebook his mother owned and finds that she has written the story of the family, but personally I confess that I found these sections overlong and of little consequence.

Eventually, TS arrives in Washington for his big moment, and... I won't reveal what happens. The book is nicely rounded off, but there's still a nagging feeling that it should have all been so much better. There is also the book's single biggest issue: its narrator is a twelve year-old boy, and yet there isn't really a single moment where you believe he's twelve. His vocabulary is immense; he acts far older than his years; nobody stops him to ask why a small (his dimensions are documented at least twice) boy is travelling alone... As a character he's engaging enough, but I just couldn't believe he was a twelve year-old, and this proved to be the undoing of the book for me.

Beautiful to look at, enjoyable to read (apart from the tedious central section), but utterly unconvincing. A shame.
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The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen (Hardcover - 7 May 2009)
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