"Esther Krivda’s debut novel, Where the What If Roams and the Moon Is Louis Armstrong, is a special kind of book, the kind of book that warrants many readings and a future CliffsNotes edition. It is a long, heady emporium of a book. Krivda herself describes it as a modern psychological fairy tale. Indeed, there are fairies in this book. But her own description almost belies, or at least oversimplifies, the ambitious nature of this marvelous and virtuosic work. This is the kind of book that scares off publishers, intimidates readers, and announces a major literary talent.
"Where the What If Roams alludes to both William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Krivda borrows from both. Dueling narrators, a self-aware author, and a rambunctious band of fairies constantly bicker and interrupt each other in the retelling of the central narrative, which revolves around a ten-year-old girl named Sophia Oomla, who, though she has trouble speaking, dreams of becoming a movie star.
"Swiftian satire is at work in the parallel stories of Sophia’s parents: her mother, Sigrid, who works in the New York–like city of Goliathon as CEO of Giggle, Inc., and her father, Sigmund, who works as a Freudian psychoanalyst in the Institute, a mental hospital treating distressed movie stars, or “Artistes.” The plot focuses on one pivotal week in the lives of these and supporting characters, and Krivda uses italics to break out their polyphonic inner thoughts.
"The author’s technique doesn’t so much produce stream-of-consciousness as it does rivers-of-consciousness. The writing is expansive, effusive, fluidly stylish, and full of quirky energy. Krivda unleashes multiple modifiers in her longer constructions, “her sparkly, coaxy, tickly, with-a-cherry-on-top voice,” and shorter fragments in moments of dramatic tension: “She waited. And waited. Somebody was coming. Somebody. Was.” This variety in construction, combined with an ample vocabulary and a propensity for neologisms like “CEOing,” create an overall musical experience. Krivda is a verbal acrobat performing the rhythms of her imagination across the page: cartwheeling, dancing, pirouetting when needed.
"Yet her playful loquaciousness doesn’t preclude moments of plaintive realism. Getting to the heart of her characters, Krivda’s wording and tone shift the way a magician’s cape shifts, revealing some sad and indelible reality of the human condition: “And he felt every inch of that vast, friendless space. He could have used some human companions. And a real hero. And not a room full of fancy. And a mind full of guilt.”
"Though Krivda describes the novel as a “crossover” for both young readers and adults, it might be too challenging for early teen readers. But for older teens, and for adults especially, this is a fantastically important book about sorting out a cacophony of inner voices to find one’s true voice. As Louis Armstrong, appearing as the Man in the Moon, reminds us toward the end of the book, “There never’ll be another sound like the sound of you.”
—Clarion Foreword, five out of five stars
Debut author Krivda offers a fairy tale of sorts, about a young girl and her eccentric relatives.
The Oomlas are a tightknit, humble family. As Dr. Sigmund Oomla points out, “A rainy, foggy, snowy, hurricane could never blow away our us-time!” This “us-time” often involves Mrs. Oomla testing out her new beverage ideas on her gentle husband and her daughter, Sophia. When one of her concoctions sends the family into a fit of giggling, she knows she’s hit upon a winner. Years later, the family is wealthy, though not exactly happy. In spite of the fact that they live in an enormous home and have loyal servants, the Oomlas still have personal difficulties. Sophia, for example, has a hard time speaking in school; Dr. Oomla, a psychoanalyst at the playfully named Institute for the Compassionate Care of the Extraordinary and the Always Interesting, sees his job changing and his fundamental principles challenged; and Mrs. Oomla, now a powerful, self-made CEO, feels a sting of guilt over her family’s newfound wealth, as well as discontent over the pushiness of big business. Thrown into the mix are a group of fairies who narrate, comment and interject on the proceedings throughout. “Readers, as you already know, I’ll be telling this story,” says the narrator early on. “And so, alas, will the Fairies. I must apologize in advance for the interruptions.” Krivda’s book is ambitious, silly and given to episodic humor, as when Sophia feels she’s been wronged by a trusted servant: “Betrayed by a person with an accent! Her favorite kind of person!” It makes for a wild romp in a fantastical world of engaging characters. ... Overall, this lengthy book manages a starkly creative style, but it’s one that may be too thick for fans of lighter fairy-story fare.
A dense, wavering and eccentric adventure.
Where to even begin?!! This is no ordinary story and very difficult to review – in a good way! There’s just so much going on that it’s impossible to put it all into words! It’s a huge beast of a book (over 650 pages!) and a little daunting when I first got my hands on a copy! BUT don’t be scared!! Once you open up the pages and enter the world of Sophia you will soon fall under the spell and find yourself whisked away to a world of escapism, imagination and just a wonderfully fantastical place to be!
Sophia is the true star of this book. She’s the daughter of 2 very successful parents, and feels a little forgotten. She finds that nobody really wants to listen to her true voice and only really shows herself at the ‘movie star school’ she sets up at home late at night. She is smiten by old movies and the glamour, and it becomes her life and passion – falling asleep at school in class becomes a thing, and the response of those around her?! She needs a speech therapist. To her parents there’s always a practical fix to problems that come their way when it comes to Sophia – throw money at a problem and it can be solved….
While Sophia is struggling with life, her parents are dealing with their own lives and the problems that brings their way. Their daughter is missing out on their attention and she’s paying the price of their success. What will it take to make them see how their daughter is struggling?
Sophia isn’t totally alone though – she has 5 fairies living inside her head… yes you read that right! And they are there to ‘guide’ her, while also causing trouble and creating their own merry havoc! I told you this book was unique!! The way of storytelling does take a while for you to come to terms with, but it works! We get the story with interruptions from both the narrator and the fairies which adds a great sense of humour and fun and really helps to portray those ‘voices’ that we all have in our heads either cheering us on or holding us back! They are full of wisdom and can see the real Sophia and try and get the rest of the world to see her too.
I am really struggling to put into words how this book made me feel – it’s one of those stories that needs to be experienced! It’s mad, imaginative, magical, endearing, touching, fantastical and just plain bonkers! While you are reading it takes you out of yourself – just what books are there to do! It’s not one of those you can pick up and read in one sitting! I read it in stages of about 50-100 pages a day, and found this a great way to really enjoy my time with the characters and let me reflect on what I’d read before diving in again for the next crazy part of the journey!
It’s quite a pertinent story for the times we live in – everyone has busy lives and it is easy to miss what is happening just under our noses, and spend time concentrating on the wrong things. There are so many important messages that come through over the storyline, from taking time to appreciate the little things, teaching children to be themselves and really shows just how powerful fairy tales are in helping children deal with the world around them.
This is a book to be enjoyed by those of all ages – not the very young though! – and I will never look at the moon the same way again!!
The best way for me to start talking about this book would be to burst into song. This particular song to be exact dear readers; “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination, take a look and you’ll see into your imagination” Think yourself lucky you don’t have to actually hear me sing, it’s awful. But in all seriousness, this book oozed magic. I could feel it slipping off the page and onto my fingers the more I devoured its contents. It’s extremely unique which is much-needed in today’s literature. An experience like no other that remains with you long after you have finished reading. Sheer brilliance.
I found the duelling narratives style worked perfectly. It’s unlike anything I have read before, the writer is interrupted on a frequent basis by the other characters. It takes a bit of getting used to at first if I’m honest but once you’ve got the hang of it, you’re certain to start hearing the faint buzzing of tiny fairy wings around your ears. Although buzzing is probably an offensive description of the sound of their wings and the fairies would probably tell me off for saying that. Sorry fairies! Sorry.
“Readers, as you already know. I’ll be telling this story. And so, alas, will the Fairies.
I must apologize in advance for the interruptions. And some of their behavior.”
Krivda’s use of voice and language is effectively used throughout. Different accents and tones really brought life to the story and I could hear them clearly in my head. I felt a kindred spirt to Sophia as I am very often at times more of a listener and not a talker. I enjoyed how this book centred on about accepting yourself, the person you are. To speak up and be proud of your voice. To not hide or be scared but to shout about your existence to the world and the moon. Sophia hates how her voice sounds and likes to hear other people talk. The world is full of endless racket and noise. Too often we don’t take the time to just sit and listen. This book allows you to do just that, to really focus on how the characters are talking, the sounds, the words they use. It’s extraordinary to witness. And also allows the reader to explore their own hidden voices inside their head and discover what they are really trying to tell them.
‘Is their tongue touching the roof of their mouth or is it laying like a carpet on a floor?’ She would listen and watch and calculate and never let on to a soul what she was up to. It was her secret. (At least until Miss Kitty found her out.) For Sophia was hopelessly in love with voices and accents.
I could also envision this book adapted to the stage, much like a Shakespeare play. There are so many elements that would work well, the fairies, the magic, the use of voice. It would be interesting to see but of course would never beat the stage that is our own imagination. Nothing can compare to a good book and this dear readers is certainly that.
I give Where the What If Roams and the Moon Is Louis Armstrong By Esther Krivda a Four out of Five paw rating.
With magic and a world of imagination on every page you will be hard done by to find an experience like this one. It captures you from start to end and leaves you breathless, thirsty for more. It’s a feast for your mind so tuck in and don’t forget to wash it down with a glass of giggle pop. Click here to buy a copy and experience the mysteries that happen deep within your remarkably small place.
Aside from the epic title this is also a big read at over 650 pages. It’s also a read for both younger and older readers. I think the underlying complexity of this story may fly over a very young readers head. They are less likely to relate the fairies or voices in Sophia’s head to anything other than something mystical or magical. Or experiencing the movie star school Sophia attends as the escapism it really is.
If you look beyond the babbling fairies, and they certainly do talk a lot, and the slightly eccentric author, the narrator, then what remains is the lonely little girl. The overlooked child, the second thought and the small intimidated person with two overbearing parents.
The concept of the fairies reminded me a little bit of the movie Inside Out, where each cartoon character represented an emotion. Each of the fairies represents a different part of Sophia. Her inner dialogue is sad and entertaining in equal measures, but it also speaks of great creativity. Oh to live in the mind of an innocent.
You have to really read this, which may sound like a strange thing to write, but you can’t just fly over the content. You have to enter Sophia’s head, sit with her and listen to her inner voices. Sorry, listen to her fairies. Sit in the audience and partake in her movie school extravaganza.
If we take a moment to remember what it was like to go through different coming-of-age thresholds, it is easier to place ourselves in her situation. Do you remember when you found your voice? This entire book leads up to Sophia being able find, develop and use her voice, and what a journey it is.
It’s quirky, bold and an imaginative yellow brick road through the creative mind of a young child.