Daniel Pinkwater's The Yggyssey: How Iggy Wondered What Happened, etc.
Book review by Monica Friedman
Joyful, Humorous, and Strange Story of a Magical and Mundane World
To call the work of Daniel Pinkwater “formulaic” would be an insult to the bizarrely inventive nature of his stories, but, all the same, there is an algorithm that describes Pinkwater’s books: a child with a remarkable amount of freedom disdains normal folk, associates with unusual characters, and discovers some sort of parallel world right beneath his or her own nose.
Typically, the strangest aspects of the character’s life are treated with cavalier disdain, while revelatory transcendence is assigned to certain mundane details.
YA book review: The Yggyssey
In The Yggyssey, for instance, a girl named Iggy thinks nothing of traipsing around Los Angeles during school hours, associating with ghosts, or traveling to another plane of existence. Meanwhile, the most rapturous descriptions in the book are reserved for a pair of delicious pizza pies, followed closely by fresh crullers, a tiki-themed cafeteria, and a proposed museum of shoelaces.
Yggdrasil, named for the world tree of Norse myth (despite her story’s title being a riff off Greek mythology) lives in an extremely haunted hotel in Hollywood with her father, an old and retired cowboy movie star, and her mother, a young and beautiful psychiatrist.
She attends the Harmonious Reality School—when she feels like it—and wanders around Hollywood, eating crullers, hanging out with military school boys, and talking to ghosts.
Iggy herself has no major problem. Occasionally, ghosts invade her privacy or her mother forces her to attend parties that don’t interest her, but she handles these inconveniences with aplomb.
Most of the people Iggy knows are insanely laid back, including a shaman who repeatedly tells people not to worry about anything, ever. The most demanding person Iggy knows is her art teacher, who lives on the roof and teaches children tough subjects like perspective. Her father absently wishes he knew what had happened to his long-lost twin brother. Her friend’s father wants to know how to find the most famous collectible shoelace in the world. A grad student wants to meet ghosts, which is fortunate, because the world of this book is lousy with them.
Although the kids in the book are too young to drive a car, they know a ghost who enjoys chauffeuring them around.
The tension in the story arises from the disappearance of many of Hollywood’s most popular ghosts, including Harry Houdini and a murdered woman whose body was thrown in the tar pits thousands of years ago. Between the vague hints provided by the shaman and only slightly more concrete help delivered by Chase, Iggy’s favorite ghost, who happens to be a sentient bunny rabbit who speaks English and can change size at will, Iggy and her friends determine that ghosts love nothing more than a good party, and that they will have to visit a parallel dimension to attend.
Accidental coincidence (or possibly synchronicity) is another theme of Pinkwater’s books, and the reader can draw satisfaction from the ways in which The Yggyssey wraps up the multiple little mysteries encountered along the way. You know very well that the existence of the elusive Devil’s shoestring, the grad student’s immersion in the ghost world, and the location of Iggy’s long-lost uncle will all collide in an understated but joyous finale. And so they do.
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