The phone call came late one August afternoon as my older sister Gracie and I sat out on the back porch shucking the sweet corn into the big tin buckets.
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet won me over because its looks. It’s a big green book full of illustrations and scribbles in the margins. That the blurb on the back said it was like Little Miss Sunshine in a book, mixed in with some other comparisons, was just a plus.
T.S. Spivet (Tecumseh Sparrow) is a smart twelve year old boy who likes to make maps. Of everything. Where all the MacDonalds in Ohio are, but also the insides of a beetle. His mother is a scientist, his father owns the ranch they live in the middle of nowhere and there’s an older sister who’s miserable because they live in the middle of nowhere. T.S. has a teacher who’s very enthusiastic about his mapping skills and -without informing T.S.- sent them away for an award. The above mentioned phone call turns out to be The Smithsonian who doesn’t know T.S. is a twelve-year old and rewarded him with the award. And oh, if he can come over to do a speech.
And that T.S. does. He starts off on a trip by freight train to get to Washington. What follows is an ode to (mid-)America and a lot of thoughts from a smart twelve year old. Whenever it gets close to annoying (I ignored some of the scribbles in the margins first time round), Larsen manages to turn things around and keep it cute. A lesson in growing up and taking responsibilities.
It’s a charming little story that turns big because of its surroundings. Do read it.
The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, Reif Larsen, Harvel Secker 2009