You might think, on first glance, that you might not enjoy this 1987 book due to its similarity to Richard Adam's 1972 classic, Watership Down. That's why it sat on my shelf for almost a decade collecting dust, until recently when I felt the need to dip into some more children's literature.
The barebones plot has a group of small, harmless animals, displaced from their homes by man. A group of survivors venture out into the unknown (and very British) countryside with a Moses-like leader. There are trials and tribulations, including a conflict with their own kind, and eventually they find the promised land where they can live in peace... at least for a few generations.
For Christmas 2012, I received an unexpected present from a friend. The accompanying note explained that he'd acquired a second copy of a beloved book from his childhood and had thought of me as someone likely to appreciate it. The book was Badger's Moon by Elleston Trevor, and appreciate it I certainly did.
Who was Elleston Trevor? A prolific writer across a variety of genres, under several names. He is most famous for the novel Flight of the Phoenix, which has been filmed twice, and for his series of spy stories starring an agent named Quiller (as in Memorandum). He also wrote a large number of books for children, including Scamper-Foot the Pine Marten, Ripple-Swim the Otter, and Wumpus, which stars a koala. He was born in 1920 and died in 1995.
Badger's Moon is part of a series of children's books featuring the Woodlanders. These anthropomorphic creatures inhabit an idyllic, timeless landscape of hills, woods and rivers, rather like Winnie-the-Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood or Mole and Ratty's Riverbank. Other titles in the series include Mole's Castle and Sweethallow Valley.
Grandville Bête Noire, the third in the Grandville series of graphic novels by British artist and writer Bryan Talbot, debuted last Friday at Foyles in London's Charing Cross Road. Talbot discussed his work in conversation with Kim Newman (Anno Dracula) before participating in a Q&A session and a book-signing. (Questions on the night included an incredulous "How do you make animals sexy?", to which no answer was given.)
The Grandville series is set in a steampunk-style, alternate-Victorian era where robots stalk the streets and messages are delivered by 'pneumail'. Britain is slowly emerging from a long subjugation by France following defeat in the Napoleonic Wars, while Paris, known as Grandville, is the glittering centre of the world. Most of the characters in the series are anthropomorphic animals, birds and fish, with the rare human 'doughfaces' treated as an underclass. The hero of the stories is Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard, a badger whose brilliant deductive abilities are matched by his strength and ferocity in a fight.
The three books so far released have been in a full colour, hardback format, with covers inspired by the art nouveau movement. Bête Noire weighs in at 95 pages. A digital version is also available from Dark Horse Digital for e-readers and tablets.
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 …
Bryan Talbot from the UK has become quite well known among furry fans and comic book fans for his graphic novel series Grandville. Set in an an alternate steampunk universe of talking animals, where Britain is under the rule of France, the series follows the adventures of the deadly badger detective Inspector LeBrock. Recently, Mr. Talbot announced the upcoming release of the third book in the series, Grandville: Bete Noir. “The baffling murder of a famed Parisian artist in his locked and guarded studio takes the tenacious Detective Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard and his faithful adjunct, Detective Ratzi, into the cutthroat Grandville art scene to track the mysterious assassin. As the body count mounts and events spiral out of control, the investigation points to Toad Hall, where a cabal of industrialists and fat cats plot the overthrow of the French State . . . by use of steam-driven automaton soldiers!” Dark Horse Press will release Grandville: Bete Noir in hardcover on December 12th. Check out The Fandom Post for a preview.
I have been a fan of Bill Willingham as a writer (his art is good but not spectacular) ever since he wrote and drew the Elementals comic book in the 1980s. I still think that Elementals vol. 2 #15, July 1990, is one of the most perfect superhero comics ever written, and I have been reading his Fables for DC Comics/Vertigo since it started in 2002. (The second story arc of Fables, “Animal Farm”, was on the ALAA’s Recommended Anthropomorphic Reading List in 2002.)
But I’ll admit that I totally missed his first novel, Down the Mysterly River (Austin, TX, Clockwork Storybook, April 2001, 230 pages, 100 copies), when it came out ten years ago. Now Willingham has heavily revised it and it is published as a major children’s fantasy under Tor Books’ juvenile Starscape imprint, with twenty-five chapter heading illustrations and an endpaper map by his Fables partner, Mark Buckingham.
Starscape describes it as a “children’s book”. It is, but of the sort that has reviewers comparing it to the Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, the Oz books, The Wind in the Willows, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and others with lots of talking animals and/or are dramatic fantasy adventures – books that most Furry fans will have read. While I wouldn’t rate it quite as high as a classic, this is an adventure that readers of all ages will enjoy.
Talbot revealed on his Twitter account that the new book, set in a steampunk world with an alternate history and with a population mostly of anthropomorphic animals, will be called Grandville: Bete Noire. There are plans for a total of five books in the series.
Norweigian magazine Fredag (in today's issue of Dagbladet) has an article about furry fans, with a followup entitled Snakk medd en grevling (Talk to a badger).
The badger concerned is Kal; he and Sayh will be answering readers' questions on Monday.
Update: The summary has morphed into the full story, to which Sayh offers some context.
A young, hand-raised Badger bit a number of people and terrorised policemen in England before, sadly, being captured and put down.
It's bad enough when you're an English badger who's now flat at the side of a road. But when the construction crew paints the road line right over you, well, that's just sad. Brought to the attention of the local council by pictures in the newspaper, they're 'investigating' and say that the road work was done by contractors.