Released: June 2014
Tales about children venturing off on wild and spontaneous adventures are always enjoyable. They take us back to a time when we were young and free, where everything seemed possible, and no tree was too tall to climb. The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, however, has something that many other tales about childhood adventures simply try too hard to exude, and that’s charm. Reif Larsen invites the reader into his delightfully quirky tale about one boy’s journey into the unknown and it’s a treat to be carried along for the ride.
T.S. Spivet is a genius for any age, a child prodigy of the highest degree. Unfortunately he lives on a ranch in Montana, a dream to draw on a map but not the ideal place for nurturing a brilliant mind. T.S. makes sense of his chaotic family life by drawing meticulous maps in colour-coded books, but when he receives a call from the Smithsonian Institute, his ordinary ranch life takes an unexpected turn.
Believing T.S. is older than he is, the Smithsonian invite him to accept a major scientific award at a special dinner in Washington DC. And so begins T.S.’s solo adventure across two thousand miles to a life he’s always been destined for. Is this prestigious award really what a twelve-year-old boy wants though?
From the authentic descriptions of the scenic American landscapes, to the unusual characters that surround his young protagonist, Larsen has written a story that’s poignant and inspiring. T.S. might be a genius but he’s still just a boy. He’s a scientific mastermind but he doesn’t understand the minds of adults. There are certain things that not even his maps, lists and drawings can explain, things that are bigger than cartography and science. That delicate balance between intelligence and naivety is the reason the reader warms to the story so quickly.
Accompanying Larsen’s exploratory tale are his beautifully intricate illustrations, which feature on almost every page of the book. These drawings, annotations and maps make the experience of reading about T..S’s adventure even more engrossing. It’s impossible to rush through this book but there’s never a moment when you want to. Each illustration adds a little something extra to the story; small asides that give context and help the reader see the inner workings of T.S.’s wonderful mind.
Read the book and then watch Jean Pierre Jeunet’s film adaptation to get completely lost in Reig Larsen’s adventurous family tale. He’s young, he’s prodigious, but there’s a lot more to T.S. Spivet than just the title.