Review: 'Picayune', by John DeJordy
If this was a commercially published novel, it would probably be age-rated 8 and up. That’s all right; Brian Jacques’ Redwall books are age-rated 8 and up, too. Picayune is a similar rousing and fast-moving talking animal adventure that all ages can enjoy.
Chapter One is misleading. Picayune (Sir Picayune?) is a knight in the service of the king. When a black dragon destroys the capital city and lays the kingdom to waste, the king charges Picayune to, “Defeat that hideous monster at any cost.” Picayune and his noble horse slog through a dismal mire and undergo numerous hardships to find the dragon’s lair. Picayune and the dragon battle to their apparent mutual death …
Belleview, FL, self-published/CreateSpace, September 2011, trade paperback $7.99 (202 pages), Kindle 99¢.
Except that it all turns out in Chapter Two to be a dream. Picayune is not a brave human knight; he is a young dormouse with a pet worm, assisting his blacksmith father in the Clan Dormouse forest village, on a planet with two moons. When a dragon menaces that community and destroys its Taiga rider patrol, the mayor calls for volunteers to go forth and slay it. Picayune does not join them, but when he learns that his sweetheart, Ameera, has gone out to look for her cousin who was one of the riders, he determines to follow her alone. His blacksmith father outfits him in a complete suit of knight’s armor, and his large kangaroo rat friend, Swift-Hopper, becomes his talking mount (and comic relief).
Picayune almost immediately runs into adventures. Phineas Redtail, a squirrel scout, joins his quest, persuading him to come first to the squirrel’s treetop community to ask Phineas’ Aunt Sibyl (who has mystic powers) where they should go. Aunt Sibyl offers a soothsayer’s typically vague advice:
There are many paths ahead and I cannot see them all. If you look within yourself, you will find the answers you seek. Never doubt your own strength, and you will find it sufficient to your task. (p. 47)
She bids Pica to watch over Phineas rather than vice-versa. That night, there is a colorful dance in the squirrel community.
When Picayune falls asleep at night, his dream of himself as a human knight continues. The book follows Picayune’s parallel adventures as dormouse and as human, until at last they merge as Picayune the human knight and the princess that he is rescuing are transformed into dormice.
The next day, the animals’ journey and their adventures resume. Picayune, Phineas, and Swift-Hopper are captured by badgers and enslaved in their underground kingdom. They become friends with two other slaves, the rabbit Alacrity and the lizard Lacer (Lacertil). When the three escape from the badger kingdom, they take Alacrity, Lacer, and a friendly badger, Trailblazer, with them – only to all be captured by the badgers’ enemies, the Hoo-Caw tribe of hawks …
After enlisting the hawks as allies, there is a grand confrontation with the Dragon which is not what anyone expects; and a happy ending that may or may not lead to further adventures.
The novel also has an admirably attractive wraparound cover by Sarah Ellerton.
If this were an adult anthro novel, I would be much more critical, such as asking how a dormouse village blacksmith knows how to make a mouse-sized complete human suit of knight’s armor. But for a juvenile adventure fantasy, there is no need to nit-pick the details. The writing is vivid and full of colorful detail, with an adult vocabulary:
Two squirrels came out to the center of the stage and a hush fell over the crowd. The two squirrels were dressed in bright greens and yellows, and looked almost identical. They bowed and nodded to a female squirrel in the back. With a tin whistle pressed to her lips, she began to play whimsical music. Instantly, the duo leapt into action, one jumping over the other as they started to juggle acorns. Back and forth, they twisted and swiveled, jumping about. They moved higher and higher into the air, as if suspended on invisible wires. The faster the music played, the faster they moved until, suddenly, they collided with one another high in the air. The crowd shrieked as they began to fall, only to tumble out of it at the last second. Their bushy tails caught every object they had been juggling. They posed on opposite ends of the stage, each on one knee with his arms extended. Everyone erupted in applause and cheers. Even Picayune grinned at the performance. (p. 49)
For those who enjoyed the first three or four Redwall novels but soon tired of their continual sameness, Picayune offers a refreshing variation of the genre. Most Furry fans do not have children yet, but this is a good novel for them to get and read themselves while waiting to get married and raise a family, and to give to their children when they are nine or ten years old.
About the authorFred Patten — read stories — contact (login required)
a retired former librarian from North Hollywood, California, interested in general anthropomorphics
Another review of something good. But as wordy as ever; I hurt my eyes reading.
Well, I'll be...
Short attention span much? If you can't even make it through this review, how will you ever read the book?
When one paragraph is enough, there is no need to write three pages.
Well, I'll be...
I like the cover. I was confused from your first sentence though. I'm not aware of books having age-restrictions or, aside from sometimes very vague categories, age recommendations either. Is that an American thing I'm not aware of? I even looked at the Redwall book I'm reading now and there is no mention of age anywhere on the cover nor do I remember seeing one on any of my other books, which range from childhood books to adult and old to new.
"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~
Not age restrictions as much as age advisories. It is common in the U.S. (and the U.K.?) for juvenile books. Grade level advisories, also.
Release Date: April 21, 2005 | Age Level: 8 and up | Grade Level: 3 and up | Series: Puffin Modern Classics
I still think that if it wasn't for the Bible, books would have age restrictions. Guess an agnostic at least has to give it that.
The Bible: treat it as a bed time story. From Japan.
Well, I'll be...
I had fun reading 'Picayune' and donated it to my library. It's a classic spin on a milk toast character imagining bravery, ala Danny Kaye doing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. However, in this case, the poor wretch stays in one character.
The Danny Kaye movie is good, but give credit to the Walter Mitty short story by James Thurber that inspired it.
Hopefully your library accepted the donation. I was briefly a librarian at one of the branches of the Los Angeles Public Library in the 1960s, and it was library policy at that time to accept any books that were donated, send them to a board for consideration for purchase of multiple copies for many of the library's branches (over fifly), if the library did not already have copies, and discard them if the board decided that they were not worth getting, or could not be obtained, for the whole library system.
As of now, two years later, this is still the only book by John DeJordy that Amazon.com lists.
One of the nitpicky questions that I did not ask was, considering Sarah Ellerton's wraparound cover painting, how does Phineas Redtail, the squirrel scout, ever get his pants on with that bushy tail?
I actually had a scene in a screenplay I wrote with a bit that was basically for the audience to go, "So that's how tails and pants work."
I have other books that I have been working on that are on Amazon.
In my Transfiguration series: Transformations has been released
In the Dragon's Bond series, I have two short stories.
Unfortunately, I've been running into serious health issues, and have been in the hospital a couple of times because of it.
I have completed Picayune two: Attack of the Swamp Rats, but my editor and I decided I needed to remove a couple characters to keep the story tight, so it requires a complete rewrite to remove them.
I also have a few more in the works, so all I can say is please be patient. I planned on releasing more, and have my blog started with a main character from the Transformation series: a dragon named Lumadian at http://www.lumadian.com
It still needs an overhaul as I worked through my health issues.
Hopefully, I can get it all done soon(tm)
If you have any questions, I'd be happy to respond.
Oh, and you pull up the pants and button around the base of the tail. :)
Interesting. When I enter your name on Amazon.com, I can find your other fiction; but when I enter Picayune and click from it to the Author's Page, it only lists Picayune.
I assume that your Transformations does not include any anthropomorphic characters, but if you kindly send me a copy, I will review it for another website: http://amoxcalli.ginaruiz.com/ Send it to:
c/o Sherrill Patten
11113 Moorpark Street, apt. 105
North Hollywood, Calif. 91602
The book is in the mail. I look forward to hearing your comments.
If you want to contact me my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
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