Reif Larsen studied at Brown University and has taught at Columbia University, where he received his MFA in fiction. He is also a filmmaker and has made documentaries in the United States, United Kingdom and sub-Saharan Africa. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet is a mapmaker whose highly accomplished drawings have appeared in exhibitions at the Smithsonian and have garnered him the coveted Baird Prize, for which he is asked to come to Washington, DC, and deliver an acceptance speech. Unbeknown to everyone, T.S. Spivet is a 12-year-old boy who lives on a Montana ranch with his cowboy father, scientist mother, and bored teenage sister. Unwilling to forgo his award by revealing his age, T.S. secretly hops a freight train and travels to DC. Among the bizarre and impractical items he brings along is his mother's notebook, in which she has written a partially fictional account of their ancestor Emma Osterville, who struggled to be a scientist in a misogynistic environment. Emma's story in some ways parallels T.S.'s, as they both battle narrow-minded thinking in the world of science. Debut novelist Larsen's writing is as detailed and absorbing as a map, and while the ending is a bit of a stretch, the overall story is a delightful and poignant adventure. Recommended for all fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/09.]-Joy Humphrey, Pepperdine Univ. Law Lib., Malibu, CA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Fans of Wes Anderson will find much to love in the offbeat characters and small (and sometimes not so small) touches of magic thrown into the mix during the cross-country, train-hopping adventure of a 12-year-old mapmaking prodigy, T.S. Spivet. After the death of T.S.'s brother, Layton, T.S. receives a call from the Smithsonian informing him that he has won the prestigious Baird award, prompting him to hop a freight train to Washington, D.C., to accept the prize. Along the way, he meets a possibly sentient Winnebago, a homicidal preacher, a racist trucker and members of the secretive Megatherium Club, among many others. All this is interwoven with the journals of his mother and her effort to come to grips with the matriarchal line of scientists in the family. Dense notes, many dozens of illustrations and narrative elaborations connected to the main text via dotted lines are on nearly every page. For the most part, they work well, though sometimes the extra material confuses more than clarifies. Larsen is undeniably talented, though his unique vision and style make for a love-it or hate-it proposition. (May) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.