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Down the Mysterly River

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,054 ratings  ·  236 reviews
Down the Mysterly River is the children's book debut of Bill Willingham, the creator of the #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel series Fables. Complete with illustrations by Fables artist Mark Buckingham, it is a spirited, highly original tale of adventure, suspense, and everlasting friendship.

Max 'the Wolf' is a top notch Boy Scout, an expert at orienteering and a
Hardcover, 333 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Starscape (first published April 1st 2001)
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3.74  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,054 ratings  ·  236 reviews

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Nov 27, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sep 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 05, 2011 rated it liked it
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,
Shaun Duke
Oct 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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...

Oct 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Dec 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
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
Emily Freeman
Jul 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: summer-2016
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
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
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
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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!
Sep 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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:
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Really good! And a twist I totally didn't see coming that made it even more awesome! Highly recommend for kids, too!
May 25, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
May 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leia by: Yi
Shelves: fantasy, for-8to12
It was a very intresting and adventerous book about a boy named Max who meet a badger,a cat and a bear.I would recommend this book to people who love reading about adventures!
Chris King Elfland's 2nd Cousin
Oct 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of the Fables graphic novel series, fans of middle-grade adventure fantasy
NOTE: This review was first published on my blog at The King of Elfland's 2nd Cousin on October 4, 2011. If you enjoy this review, please come check out the rest of the blog!

I've been a fan of Bill Willingham's writing for years. His work on Vertigo's Fables: Legends in Exile series? Hands-down the best comic book writing out there. I've particularly appreciated the structure he brings to his sequential storytelling: sweeping, complex plots that more closely resemble epic fantasy than standa
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
The adventure story of the book, itself, I would probably rate a 2-stars. It's pretty standard - a group of animals (including one young boy) find themselves in a strange situation, and are being chased by villains, so they have to stick together for mutual safety, become friends, and try to find their way to safety.

I generally liked the animal characters more than Max, who didn't come across as a realistic 12 year old boy. Then again, he is smarter than most people his age - as he outright tell
Lucas S.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read a book called Down the Mysterly River, I liked this book because it was a bit predictable for awhile, sounding kind of like Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz, until the very end, when they play a wildcard, making your brain explode because of how much different it becomes from books you thought were similar to it. My favorite part was the end when they played the wildcard ending, I was in utter disbelief of how off my predictions were. The main character is a young boy scout named ...more
Ricky Ganci
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
A disappointing and rather fruitless tale. Aside from a few remarkably humorous insights, I found the novel to be essentially a strained allegory about the author's frustrations with producers and editors. I'm not entirely sure Willingham chose the right setting or approach for that criticism, as the exposition and promise of discovery were pretty seriously betrayed by a poor reckoning and wildly discordant conclusion.
I so was so distressed by the description of the Blue Cutters "remaking" a character, I almost couldn't finish. I am glad I did, and I did like the way the story ended. Our heroes were very heroic but perhaps it was just too sad for my taste.
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Feeling like I haven't had the best luck when listening to YA/JUV audiobooks, I should have known that ol' reliable Dick Hill would deliver a stellar reading. I'd be hard pressed to tell you if this is too overly similar to something else out there, but for me it scored some big points for originality and a few imaginative concepts that carried some considerable thematic weight by the end of the book. I've meant to start Willingham's Fables series and still haven't yet, but this novel ...more
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
this is such a wonderful and creative story!
Mar 18, 2018 rated it liked it
My daughter insisted I read this, and I'm glad I did. The story was enjoyable and I was impressed by how the themes rang so true.
Kathryn G.
Bumped up from 2 stars to 3 within the last forty pages or so because the denouement was beyond satisfactory.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fabulous and exciting book. It had a lot of really interesting twists and turns, and I really loved all of the characters in it. After reading several flops, this really renewed my faith in the young adult fantasy genre. However, this book is a member of the Books with Horrible Epilogues Club because the epilogue did almost ruin the story. It had a beautiful ending, but then it kept going and left me with a rather uneasy feeling after reading the epilogue. Therefore, if you can, stop ...more
Bluerose's  Heart
Max the Wolf, who is actually a 12-13 year old boy, not a wolf, wakes up in a strange world one day. He has no recollection of his immediate past and has no idea how he ended up where he's found himself. He quickly meets Banderbrock(a badger), McTavish(a cranky and very mean barncat), and Walden(a black bear who was a sheriff in the past). They learn that the "Blue Cutters" are after them to cut out parts of them that make them unique. Down the Mysterly River is about their journey to safety.

I c
Marion Harmon
Jun 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa Nocita
Jan 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya-2011, tag-2012-13
Down the Mysterly River begins as a rousing tale of adventure, survival, and fantasy. The cast of characters features an erudite, older-than-his-years boy scout, a wise, battle-aged badger, a feisty and curmudgeonly tom cat, and an affable bear, all of whom can talk. The four meet when they rather inexplicably find themselves in a strange new world. Max, known as Max the Wolf among his scout friends, fears he has somehow managed to become lost while hiking until he almost stumbles over Banderbro ...more
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed
The premise: ganked from Down the Mysterly River is the children’s book debut of Bill Willingham, the creator of the #1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel series Fables. Complete with illustrations by Fables artist Mark Buckingham, it is a spirited, highly original tale of adventure, suspense, and everlasting friendship.

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 re
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Madison Mega-Mara...: #105 - Down the Mysterly River 1 2 Jun 22, 2015 10:32AM  
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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