Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jellicoe Road (copy)

I remember the first birthday party attended as a child. It was my friend Ellen’s party held outside Castalian Springs, Tenn., in an old Victorian complete with picket fence. The tall ceilings and huge rooms were so different from our cookie cutter ranch houses in town; consequently, it was like entering a magic kingdom.

Once inside, we stood grouped in the large dogtrot hall waiting for the party to begin. Ellen’s mother gave a nice welcome, took our presents to the kitchen and returned to instruct us on a little game. Each child was to look for his/her name on a piece of paper with yarn attached. Once located, we were to roll the yarn around the paper as we worked our way through the maze creating a ball of yarn in the process.

She turned her back and pushed open the enormous pocket doors. In awe we stood as we faced a web of multi-colored yarn from floor to ceiling. She then hollered, “Go!”

Once finding my name, I weaved in and out of the other children, between spindles on a rocking chair, around a couch leg, up through a book on the library shelf, across to a ceiling fan blade, and finally to a little present for me!

It was during the reading of Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta that I thought of this day. Somewhere in chapter six, I began to realize the many different characters and separate storylines were tangled much like the web in my friend Ellen’s house.

Main character Taylor Markam attends the Jellicoe boarding school, outside of Sydney, Australia, ever since her mother dumped her at a 7-Eleven on Jellicoe Road nearby. She has spent the last 11 years learning the layout of the school, its dormitories, the woods, and the significance of the prayer tree. It is because of her extensive knowledge and the fact holidays are spent on school property that the year 12 students have elected her president.

This unofficial title is known only amongst the student body. The faculty remains blissfully in the dark. Along with official duties as house leader, Taylor must memorize the purple Rule Book of Engagement. With this book she will lead the Jellicoe students through war with two factions: the town kids called Townies and the encroaching campers named Cadets. Within the sacred purple book are the boundaries and possibly the answer to her missing mother’s whereabouts.

Wind the yarn of this mystery and be rewarded with a perfect present from this year’s Printz Award winner, Jellicoe Road.