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Down the Mysterly River

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  807 ratings  ·  208 reviews
Max "the Wolf" is a top-notch Boy Scout, an expert at orienteering and a master of being prepared. So it is a little odd that he suddenly finds himself, with no recollection of his immediate past, lost in an unfamiliar wood. Even odder still, he encounters a badger named Banderbrock, a black bear named Walden, and McTavish the Monster (who might also be an old barn cat)-al ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 25th 2012 by Starscape (first published April 1st 2001)
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Community Reviews

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This was a very enjoyable surprise.

I began reading not sure of what to expect but I liked it right away and also very much enjoyed the ending. I read this as a part of a book club selection and like so many books in this category I would likely have never read otherwise. And, pleasantly, like so many of the books selected my fellow book club members, I was pleased and thoroughly enjoyed reading Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham.

A strong influence of Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein and Ph
Jul 10, 2014 Eric rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone young enough at heart to appreciate a good fairy tale
Recommended to Eric by: Saw the author speak at a book festival
Sometimes book labeling really frustrates me, and this is definitely one of those cases. This book is listed as a children's book -- not even as a young adult book -- but it is so much deeper than, for example, a Lemony Snicket children's book. Although it's an easy read that can and should be enjoyed by children, it can be enjoyed on an entirely different level by adults (I can't say more without revealing the big mystery of the book). I'm glad I ignored the children's book label and picked up ...more
Shaun Duke
Fantasies for young readers are almost always a joy to read. I'm no sure what it is about such books. Maybe it's to do with the whimsical style -- of which Down the Mysterly River has plenty -- or the adventures -- ditto. Or maybe there's something else I haven't discovered yet. In any case, Willingham's children's fantasy, Down the Mysterly River, is an exciting adventure story with a wonderful mixture of fairy tale and detective mystery. Too bad I don't have kids to read this book to...

Originally Reviewed on The Book Smugglers:


First Impressions:

Ana: Bill Willingham is the writer of the comic book series Fables which has been going strong for years and although I have not read every single volume of the comics, I did read quite a few and enjoyed what I read a great lot. When I learned about Down The Mysterly River which is his first incursion into MG writing, it was all I could do not to drool all over myself. Needless to say,
Buzzwords: Mystery, Adventure, Boys and talking animals, logic, the ethics of changing others, (view spoiler)
Max the Wolf, Boy Scout and mystery-solver extraordinare, is in a strange new place, and has no idea how he got there. Then he meets Banderbrock the badger, McTavish the cat, and Walden the bear, all of whom speak and who are equally at sea as to how they’ve gotten to this place. And t
Complete with lovely chapter header illustrations, "Down the Mysterly River" has the look and feel of a good old fashioned fairy-tale and it absolutely lives up to that first impression. Totally original, yet paying homage to classics like "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Incredible Journey", it has all the elements of a classic. With a boy lost in the forest, talking animals and an epic quest, there's loads of adventure. There are enough grizzly battles to satisfy tween readers and an ending which w ...more
I admit, I got turned off right after the dedication, where Willingham gives a surprisingly vehement endorsement of the Boy Scouts of America. It's worded just carefully enough to support plausible deniability of it being interpreted as “never mind the liberals, boys, you go on and exclude gay people all you want.” Which, of course, led to a brief foray into researching Willingham’s politics, and that's exactly the sort of dangerous nonsense that forever ruined Orson Scott Card’s work for me. Si ...more
Hi, my name is Cecelia, and I just fell in love with a book for 10 year-old boys. Hi, Cecelia. Wait, WHAT?! Yes, that's right. Bill Willingham's Down the Mysterly River has crazy powers of amazing. This book? Would have been my brothers' favorite thing on the planet when they were younger. I'm not even joking. It would have gone in the camouflage backpack right alongside the machete, walkie-talkies, and beef jerky. But it was published NOW, so I, city-dweller, older person and girl that I am, ha ...more
Every once in a while a story transports me to another world or emotion, and in this case it brought me back to feelings I got as a young reader, when I got caught up in a good tale that immersed in some fantasy. Silly, yes. Not serious enough, yes. But it is something I would expect from Willingham, and I do much enjoy his Fables universe; I fell easily into this adventure, even if I rather quickly surmised what was going on. There are things one could criticize. . .but why? This is a book to p ...more
Short & Sweet:
I've always been a huge fan of Bill Willingham, and when I heard he was writing a middle grade novel, I could not help but pick it up as soon as I could. The plot is so intriguing. Max finds himself in a world that he does not know and has no idea why he is there. He meets up with some animals that can talk, which he takes in stride and then bands with them when they are attacked by hunters with blue swords that change the animals they cut into in a strange way. I loved the way
Timothy Boyd
Bill Willingham has been one of my favorite Comic book writers for years so I was very excited when a friend told me he had written a couple of actual books. Even though it is a young teens book this is an excellent read. Great characters that carry you along in the story, you will enjoy meeting each of them. This one of definitely one I will recommended around to friends. High recommended to all!
Ea Solinas
I've never read "Down the Mysterly River" before. But while reading it, I felt as thought I was dipping back into a well-loved childhood classic like "The Hobbit" or the Prydain Chronicles.

And as you would expect from the author of the "Fables" series, it has a lot of talking animals, a resolute Boy Scout who discovers the darker side of the world, some genuinely spooky villains, and a metafictional twist that I honestly saw within the first few chapters. Willingham's powerful, atmospheric writi
Mike Kalmbach
Down the Mysterly River is exactly the type of book I would have picked up when I was about 10 years old. It has adventure, demonstrates the valuable skills taught by the Boy Scouts, and has enough twists that kids will find it a fun, engrossing read.

The major twist makes this book become a meta-experience, which some readers will like, and others will not. I fell into the second category. The mystery part was enjoyable, and I figured it out early on--it was a cool concept. However, I felt the e
I am shocked at how much I loved this book in the end. It actually blew me away.

I enjoyed it from beginning to end, but in the last quarter, I grew to absolutely love it.

Suffice it to say: Well done, Mr. Willingham. I didn't see it coming, but I suspected something was up.

See my full review here:
Jennifer Lauren Collins
I've got incredibly mixed feelings about this one, much as I was looking forward to reading it.

This should have been just up my alley, and story-wise, it certainly is. Fantasy adventure, talking animals, suspense...whether adult or young adult, this sounds like just my sort of story. And I loved the story, and many of the characters. And, yet...

The main character drove me a bit crazy, and was far too much of a know-it-all for me to enjoy following his adventure. Even though his character made a
Max the Wolf, Boy Scout and amateur detective, suddenly finds himself in a strange land, populated by talking animals, and even talking trees. He has very limited memory of his past life and no idea how he got to where he is. And he is being ruthlessly pursued by a group known as the Blue Cutters, who carry devastating weapons of blue metal. He makes some new and unlikely friends as he searches for safety from the Cutters, and learns some interesting things about himself along the way, too.

There were no new ideas in this book, and I found the moral near the end to be rather heavy-handed. The characters (literally)were well-drawn.
Really good! And a twist I totally didn't see coming that made it even more awesome! Highly recommend for kids, too!
This was the last book of the epic roadtrip. I have owned this for a long while - it was one of the first books I'd ever bought at Audible, back when I had mistakenly thought I'd enjoy listening to books as much as reading them. Spoiler: I don't, but I like them for long car trips or for multi-tasking when I'm playing with yarn.

I actually only got a bit past halfway through the book before reaching home. I immediately bought the ebook after walking through the front door and continued reading.
Dan Gemeinhart
This is an example of truly masterly world-building, and a story that, once it got its claws in me, held me fast until the end. It was a grand adventure, gripping and moving and transportive, and one that I'm glad I experienced.
However - and there is a however - this book had a few flaws that kept it from getting five stars from me. The opening was slow, confusing, and kind of alienating. An obscure opening can really pay off (once you hit that "ah-ha" moment of clarity), but the unveiling here
Complete review at:

Summary: Max calls himself Max the Wolf because he is the leader of his Wolf Patrol of Boy Scouts. He's never been lost. There's not a mystery he can't solve. However, Max is stumped about his current situation. He woke up in the middle of a forest with no memory of how he got there. On top of that, he has met two interesting characters: Branderbock the Badger, McTavish the Cat, and Walden the Bear. Both on a normal basis would be not t
I quite liked this middle grade story from Bill Willingham. Max the Wolf (who is not so much a wolf as a 13 year old boy scout) suddenly find himself in a large forest, with no memory of how he arrived there. Indeed, he has no memories outside of those that involve mysteries he solved in the past. He quickly encounters a few companions in the form of talking animals (another clue he is someone strange) and they begin a journey to find out why they have arrived in this forest, at all times avoidi ...more
When Max the Wolf - who isn’t really a wolf, but a boy - finds himself in a strange forest with talking animals he is surprised, to say the least.

When Max and his new friends run into some strange men who seem to know them and who are trying to capture them, they are a bit confused. In this strange new world these fugitives band together to escape detection and to figure out the mystery of where they are, and why they are where they are.

This story, though aimed for middle-graders, will charm al
Just finished it, and I'm seriously impressed. This book is very...meta in its approach, and quite frankly a bit of a mindscrew.

The protagonist is a Boy Scout nicknamed Max the Wolf, who finds himself in unfamiliar woods with no recollection of how he got there. He has vague memories of his home and family, and several mysteries he has apparently solved, but that's it. He meets up with a few other lost souls-Walden the Bear, Banderbrock the Badger, and McTavish the Monster (who is actually a cat
Alyssa (Books Take You Places)
Originally reviewed here: http://www.bookstakeyouplaces.blogspo...

Max “the Wolf” finds himself walking alone in the middle of a forest with no memory of what has befallen him. He is wearing his scout uniform so he assumes that he has been separated from his group and is merely lost in the woods in a familiar place. Soon after he comes across a few talking animals, Banderbrock, who is a warrior and a badger, MacTavish the Monster, a barn cat with a serious attitude problem, and Walden a sweet she
Max the Wolf (not a real wolf) wakes up in the woods with no memory of how he got there. But he is in his Boy Scout uniform so he must have gotten lost on a Scouting trip. He loves solving mysteries so he decides to use his skills to figure out how he got to Heroes Woods and how he can get home. Then he meets Banderbrock a warrior badger who can talk; this forces him to reevaluate...maybe he is dead or dreaming. Soon the small band of warriors is joined by McTavish the Monster (a fierce barn cat ...more
Lindsay (Everyday Is An Adventure)
The first thing that struck me about this book was the cover - it is absolutely beautiful, and it clearly will catch readers' caught mine.

This book is fantasy to the max and I loved every minute of it. Max was a top notch character and I loved following him throughout this book. He would not have been half as entertaining without his two friends Walden and McTavish, who in my opinion add so much humor to this book that it is hard to put it down. I found myself laughing out loud at
Chris Freeman
Down the Mysterly River has strong elements of both The Hobbit and the Narnia books but, at the same time, manages to be rather different than both of these YA fantasy classics. "YA" may even be too strong a characterization for this novel, in fact. The prose, while pleasant and well-written, seems actually to be geared toward readers in the 10-12 year old range. However, while the reading level is basic, the several instances of real violence (some unwillingly carried out by a 12 year old boy) ...more
Review format taken from my Children's Literature class at College of Saint Mary.

Summary of Elements:
Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham is an outstanding piece of children's literature. The overall tone of the book is darker than many works for young readers but had a very thrilling aspect to it that kept me reading long after I ought to have gone to bed. The `heroes' quest' is the prominent motif in this book and used to great effect. As the author shows marvelously with McTavish the M
When Max the Wolf finds himself in the middle of the woods one afternoon he has no idea how he got there or where he is. Since Max is a master at orienteering, he finds this strange. Even during all his boyscout trips, he never once can remember being lost. Then, even more peculiar, he stumbles upon a talking badger. He is sure he must be dreaming, at first, but the badger thinks that they have both died and are in the afterlife. The two set out together and are not on the road for long before t ...more
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In the late 1970s to early 1980s he drew fantasy ink pictures for the Dungeons & Dragons Basic and Expert game rulebooks. He first gained attention for his 1980s comic book series Elementals published by Comico, which he both wrote and drew. However, for reasons unknown, the series had trouble maintaining an original schedule, and Willingham's position in the industry remained spotty for many ...more
More about Bill Willingham...
Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile (Fables, #1) Fables, Vol. 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers (Fables, #4) Fables, Vol. 2: Animal Farm (Fables, #2) Fables, Vol. 3: Storybook Love (Fables, #3) Fables, Vol. 6: Homelands (Fables, #6)

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