adventure, Alex Caird, Alice in Wonderland, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, coming of age, fantasy, GoodReads, Jostein Gaarder, Lewis Carroll, Plato's Cave, Poppy, Poppy Lung, Sophie’s World, The Allegory of the Cave, The Cave, The Forms
So before I begin talking about the book, I just need to mention that I won this book in a GoodReads First Reads giveaway [thank you GoodReads!]. Also, I’d like to thank to author for signing the book as well, that’s a really nice touch :)
Poppy Lung is a children’s story, written and illustrated by Alex Caird:
This is the magical story of Poppy Lung, an inquisitive young girl full of questions and ideas who finds herself in the unusual position of being abducted by a giant crow. Delivered unceremoniously to a distant and other world, she discovers that her only hope of returning home is to find a mysterious prince who she is told can help her.
With little choice she sets off on a long journey where she meets the four elements as the ancients understood them: fire, water, earth and air, all represented by their corresponding animals. From each of them she starts to learn about their place within the world as well as her own. Her predicament soon becomes all the more urgent when she finds herself being pursued by a dark and menacing wind.
Poppy Lung is a homage to Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, as well as other fairy tales from the past but it is also very much its own story. Written with both older children and adults in mind, it is a tale of a young girl’s initiation into adulthood, the mysteries of nature and ultimately her awakening to the realisation of her own being.
When we begin our story by meeting Poppy Lung, playing by herself in her Aunts back garden, immediately aware that she is orphaned and disliked by her cousins. She’s hanging from a tree and encounters a crow, which subsequently kidnaps her and takes her on a magical journey through the elements on a journey of self discovery, questioning everything from what animals are, what it means to be a human being, and who exactly is Poppy Lung? This is a whimsical tale of a girl escaping her surroundings that make a hard and sad life, and overcoming her own doubts of being to triumph over evil and complete her quest.
There have already been the analogies to the Lewis Carroll “Alice in Wonderland” stories, and for sure there is that element to this book as we travel across time and space to meet weird and fantastical, [and slightly annoying characters]. What I found more though, rather than being reminiscent of the Alice in Wonderland story, I was more reminded of a book called “Sophie’s World” [Jostein Gaarder] in which the main character is given a crash course on the philosophy of mankind, and in turn we question the philosophy of the world around us and challenge what we know.
In reading Poppy Lung I was reminded strongly of Plato’s Allegory of the The Cave. The world that Alex Caird presents us with, I felt, was the realm of the Forms, the image of the animals in their true Forms when the prisoner escapes the cave and see the world for what it really is, rather than the shadows made from the fire that are projected onto the side of the cave. When Poppy Lung talks to these creatures she wants to know more, she’s always questioning the creatures she comes across – and more often than not she doesn’t get an answer. This is Poppy’s escape from her Cave and into the land of the light, and the adventure that comes with it.
As we visit the different elements, which is another reference to the Greek philosophies I believe, we get a fairytale-esque stories each with a different lesson for Poppy Lung to learn, although this isn’t realised until the conclusion. Despite this though I felt as though the whole story is told in the same sort of voice, so each section wasn’t all that different to the one previous to it. I did enjoy the fairytales though, and I think that they were probably my favourite parts of each element.
A big part of the story is the poetry which is a nice addition to a children’s book, but for me personally I felt that there was far too much going on with this book, or at least… too much poetry. I have to admit after a while I skipped over most of the poetry sections mainly because, like the fairytales mentioned above, I felt that they were told in the same sort of style, and there was nothing really unique about them. [I apologise if that isn’t the case, and if that seems harsh, it’s just how I read them, when I read them].
The illustrations of Poppy’s adventures are pretty, and make for a nice break in the story telling. It’s awesome that these are drawn by the author as well – I think a lot of authors don’t tend to illustrate their own works, and I think adds something to the whimsical adventure over all.
This is a children’s story at it’s heart, but I have to admit, I’m not sure I would have been able to manage it if I was picking this up at the age of 11. Even as an adult I found it a little on the hard side to keep going as there was so much going on, I found it hard to keep up with the essence of the story. Also, I’m not sure I understood the ending, but I don’t want to write the part I don’t understand about incase it warrants some sort of massive spoiler alert. I don’t know.
Over all on GoodReads I have given this 3 of 5 stars, mainly because I’m sitting on the fence. I don’t know quite what happened, but I do know that I thought about my philosophy lessons and had a reminder of Plato and his Cave so perhaps this could be an introduction into philosophy for a younger generation?
Do you think that this is a book that you would read? Have you read it? What did you think?