- Snotty Saves the Day by Tod Davies, and: Lily the Silent by Tod Davies
There are six ugly little brick houses that 12-year-old Snotty can see whenever he looks out the window of his gloomy room. Six dirty houses that form the most familiar sight of his childhood in this poor and crime-ridden neighborhood. Six houses, but seven gardens—how can that be? That puzzling seventh garden proves to truly defy all logic when Snotty, running from the [End Page 208] police, escapes into the garden only to find himself falling and falling, all the way down the rabbit hole and into a different world. It is this mysterious land, populated by such fantastic creatures as talking teddy bears, living garden gnomes, and a small white horse with a strange scar on its forehead, that serves as the setting for Snotty’s adventures and journey of self-discovery. But as Snotty struggles to understand what truly is, rather than what only appears to be, and as he begins to peel away the layers of self-deception for his true self to emerge, he also finds himself at the center of a violent battle: in this land, the Strong and Big have declared war on the Weak and Small, and Snotty will have to choose a side.
Snotty’s tale, or The Legendus Snottianicus, as it is known in its untranslated form, is not only the story of a young boy’s adventures, however; it is also the foundation myth of the land of Arcadia and a text that has been extensively studied by Arcadian scholars. As the founder of Exterminating Angel Press explains in a note that precedes Snotty’s story, the book came into her possession complete with a foreword and extensive notes by Professor Devindra Vale, one of Arcadia’s most respected scientists. Her footnotes, which often refer to other academics’ works and highlight scholarly debates relevant for a more profound understanding of The Legendus Snottianicus, offer an additional layer of meaning to the reader: while Snotty’s tale provides insight into Arcadia’s beginnings, Professor Vale’s notes illuminate Arcadia’s current state of affairs and frequently ponder the causes for the civil war this land now finds itself in. As the reader quickly learns through the commentary Professor Vale provides, the opposing ideologies that lie at the root of the war Snotty is fighting also present the core of the modern-day Arcadians’ struggle.
Snotty Saves the Day is an unconventional text for children, or, as it proclaims, for “adults of all ages,” both in its innovative form and spellbinding content. Author Tod Davies skillfully interweaves the plot of Snotty’s tale with the metacommentary inherent in the text’s footnotes, and she presents the reader with a book that looks as much like a scholarly work as it does a fairy tale. Ultimately advocating the importance of academic study and intellectualism, Davies’s novel also posits that it is in children’s stories, fairy tales, and folktales that the most fundamental human truths can be found. In the bratty, selfish, and arrogant Snotty, the tale has an unlikely protagonist whose choices nonetheless remain relatable and whose journey of self-discovery further illuminates the war of ideas that serves as the novel’s core. By subverting Snotty’s internalized ideas of the female as subservient to the male, the text moreover critiques traditional gender roles and offers a startling and creative conclusion to the child character’s quest for his true identity. Davies’s fast-paced and mesmerizing tale, which propels [End Page 209] its reader from one breathtaking adventure to the next, is a novel of ideas for children and adults that invites its readers to reflect on contemporary politics not just in Arcadia but in our world as well.
Lily the Silent, the second book in the History of Arcadia series, continues to ponder the philosophical questions that Snotty Saves the Day raises: Who are we? Why...