I confess, I have yet to read the classic Gulliver’s Tale, but I read and reread T.H. White’s take on it, Mistress Masham’s Repose, in childhood. Naturally I had to read this more recent take on Lilliputians.
Lilliput by Sam Gayton, Alice Ratteree. Peachtree, 2015.
Lily is a young girl from Lilliput – about 11 months old, which translates to 11 human years. She’s tiny to humans, while humans are giant to her. In this timeline, Gulliver has already published his famous book, but as the Lilliputian livestock he brought back all died off, everyone just thinks he’s crazy. In desperation, he journeyed back to Lilliput and captured Lilly to prove the existence of Lilliput to everyone.
Now Lily’s life consists of one escape attempt after another. Not only is she horrified at the idea of living her life on display, but she also knows that if people believed Gulliver, Lilliput itself would be overrun by humans and all of the Lilliputians would be driven to extinction. Gulliver is not in fact quite sane anymore, but he is quite determined, and Lily’s multiple escape attempts have been met with increasingly harsh punishments, such as being put inside a stinky, itchy, flea-ridden wool sock hanging from the wall. 33 failed escape attempts, and Lily, with time running out as she ages so much more quickly than Gulliver, is still scheming.
Then, finally, a note she attached to a mouse is found by Finn, the abused servant boy downstairs. His master Mr. Plinker, is a cruelly inventive clockmaker, who makes clocks to tell time not accurately but as their designers wish – longer work hours and shorter play hours for workhouses, for example. Finn himself is held captive by a wristwatch that digs ever more tightly into his wrist with every second he spends on something other than work. Neither of them can escape alone, but together, they just might manage it.
Lily is just that kind of dauntless and plucky character that I couldn’t help but root for. This is one with appeal for almost everyone, the strong characters balancing the quick-moving plot. Alice Ratteree’s illustrations bring the coal- and clockwork-powered London to life. There were a few complaints from Amazon reviewers on the harshness of Gulliver’s fate, but I didn’t notice at the time and I am not sure that children would be bothered by the “bad guy” meeting a bad fate. At any rate, this is one that both my mother and I heartily enjoyed (she liked it enough to nominate it for the Cybils herself). It was short and fast enough for both of us to make it through in a day, which makes it also a good choice for slower readers or fantasy book assignments.
This book is nominated for the Cybils. This is my opinion, not that of the Cybils committee.