Position:Home > Growing Up & Facts of Life > Windblowne


Press: Bluefire; Dgs edition (May 10, 2011)
Publication Date:2011-5
Author Name:Messer, Stephen


A high-flying fantasy adventure that will blow readers away!Every kite Oliver touches flies straight into the ground, making him the laughingstock of Windblowne. 
With the kite-flying festival only days away, Oliver tracks down his reclusive great-uncle Gilbert, a former champion.
With Gilbert's help, Oliver can picture himself on the crest, launching into the winds to become one of the legendary fliers of Windblowne.Then his great-uncle vanishes during a battle with mysterious attack kites—kites that seem to fly themselves! All that remains is his prize possession, a simple crimson kite.
At least, the kite seems simple.
When Oliver tries to fly it, the kite lifts him high above the trees.
When he comes down, the town and all its people have disappeared.
Suddenly the festival is the last thing on Oliver's mind as he is catapulted into a mystery that will change everything he understands about himself and his world.Inspired by the work of Diana Wynne Jones, debut author Stephen Messer delivers a fantasy book for boys and girls in which the distance between realities is equal to the breadth of a kite string.From the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

With easy, unforced writing, this stand-alone fantasy unfurls in the kitecentric Windblowne, a town where people live in tree houses and gale forces blow. 
Ostracized and lonely, Oliver loves building and flying kites, but he isn't very good at it.
On the advice of his distracted parents, he sets off to find his heretofore unknown great-uncle Gilbert, a champion kitesmith and something of an Obi-Wan Kenobi character.
Oliver soon discovers that Gilbert is waging a battle against evil forces set upon imprisoning him in a hell-world.
Eventually, Oliver must rescue his relative and is aided by a wise and trusty kite that leads him through parallel worlds, including one in which Oliver discovers his doppelgänger, who possesses his desired kite skills but is enslaved by an evil, power-hungry lord, also called Gilbert.
Although some plot elements and character motivations are undeveloped, the settings are just rich enough to support the action.
Oliver's growing determination, strength, and awareness that he does, indeed, have his own special talents—and the ability to save the day—make him and his adventure very likable.
Grades 4-7.
--Andrew Medlar

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


An inventive debut fantasy, set in multiple worlds linked by trees and winds...Messer constructs a tale that moves along at a powerful, steady pace to a climactic faceoff. 
--Kirkus Reviews

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Blown into this world as a baby, Stephen Messer spent his childhood flying kites on windswept hilltops in Maine and Arizona. 
He has lived in deserts and in megacities, on alpine mountains and in lowland swamps.
Nowadays he lives with his wife in an old house surrounded by oak trees in Durham, North Carolina.
Sometimes, on windblown nights, it seems like the house has been transported to another world.From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

1Oliver sat back on his stool. 
He was finished.
His hands were blistered, his head ached, and his nostrils burned with the stink of boiling glue, but he was sure this one would work.
After a lifetime of embarrassments and disappointments that made his toes curl to think about, he’d finally done it.
This time he would fly.For two days Oliver had snipped and sewn, boiled glue in the glue pots, lit new candles when the old ones had burned down to nubs, cursed and sucked on his cuts when he was clumsy with a knife, and paced back and forth crumpling up papers covered with his carefully drawn designs before hurling them into the corners in disgust.
Then he would sit at his workbench to draw up new designs, and snip and sew some more.
All the while, the midsummer winds had howled ceaselessly outside the treehouse.Oliver stood, kicking aside discarded fragments of bamboo spars.
With a triumphant sweep of his arm, he cleared the workbench.
Everything spilled onto the floor with a tumultuous crash.
He pulled open drawers and laid out his tools.
He had new twine, new reels, his handvane, and several other useful odds and ends.
He jammed it all into his pack.He dashed to the window and threw it open.
Cold wind blasted into the room.
Oliver leaned out into the tossing branches of the oak.
He closed his eyes, listening to the winds as they blew over the mountain and through the oaks.
They were just right for flying, he decided, but twilight would be settling soon.
If he hurried, there would be time for one test flight before the night winds came.He slammed the window closed, then tore off his smock and hurled it over a stack of rejected spars.
He donned his warmest flier’s outfit: leather gloves, fur-lined boots, loose-cut pants with toughened knees, a thick sweater, and a heavy wool cap fastened under his chin.
Feeling very professional, he slung his pack over his shoulders and, with his creation tucked under one arm, peeked down the hall.No one had bothered to light the lamps, of course, and the hallway curved into darkness in both directions as it followed the shape of their tree.
The only light was a faint flickering spilling through a doorway halfway to the stairs.
From within that room came the continuous scratching sound of pen across paper.Oliver crept down the hall.
He had nearly mastered the pattern of the creaky floorboards.
Left two steps, right one step, now over to the wall, then a hop, then left .
no, right! The floorboard groaned, and Oliver froze as a voice called out.“Oliver, lad, is that you? Fetch me a cup of tea, will you? There’s a lad.” As usual, his father’s voice sounded distant and distracted.Oliver peeked into the study.
There was the customary sight: his father’s back hunched over a desk piled with books and pages covered with cryptic scrawl.
The room was nearly dark, as the shades had not been opened and a last flickering candle was about to die.
Just beside his father’s arm was the untouched cup of tea, now cold, that Oliver had brought up hours ago.“Yes, Father,” Oliver said, trying to hide his creation behind his back on the remote chance his father turned around.
“I’ll bring it right up.”“There’s a lad,” his father replied vaguely.
His pen had not stopped scratching.Oliver hurried to the staircase and dashed down into the kitchen.
The rest of the treehouse was silent and dark.
As he passed the pantry, his stomach growled, and he realized that he had not eaten all day.
No time for that, thought Oliver.
I’ll have a victory dinner when I return.
Yes, a triumphant homecoming involving crowds of people apologizing for all the mockery he’d received over the years.
Thinking these happy thoughts, he pushed open the creaking front door.He stopped on the landing, forty feet up, and looked worriedly at the signs of Windblowne preparing for the coming of night.
In the treehouses of nearby oaks, lamps were sputtering to life.
Townspeople were reeling in the rope bridges that connected one treehouse to another.
On Windswept Way, far below, people were hurrying home, hands thrust deep into pockets and shoulders hunched against the suddenly cold winds.A brown oak leaf drifted by.
Oliver plucked it from the air.
Another one, he thought.
The leaf was dry and brittle, as though midsummer had been interrupted by autumn.
He’d been seeing leaves like this for weeks, and what was most curious was that Oliver, who could normally tell from which of the giant oaks any leaf had fallen, did not recognize these.
They had to be from an oak he didn’t know, and he was certain he knew almost every oak on the mountain.
This meant he was never lost, but from looking at this leaf he could see that the map in his mind must have a gap in it somewhere.He shook his head.
No time to waste on leaves.
Oliver yanked his handvane from his pack.
He snapped it onto his wrist and held it high.
The pointer spun before settling southish.
Oliver studied the result with an expert eye.
He might not be much good at flying, but he was a superb wind-reader.
The north-by-northeast wind was still blowing, best for flying, but the pointer was trembling, indicating an increasingly unsteady flow.
The wind’s direction and speed would be changing soon.
Night was drawing near.Dare he risk it?Oliver nodded his head.
He did.
The kite must be tested tonight.Down the circular staircase he ran, winding dizzily around the trunk of his familiar home oak, sliding his hand along its bark for luck and comfort.
On the ground, he raced across the small front yard.
Off to one side was his mother’s workshop, and coming from it was the usual cacophonous assortment of muttering, the clash of hammer on chisel, and the occasional loud curse.
Surrounding the workshop were several—Oliver was not sure what to call them—perhaps sculptures? that his mother was working on, or had already finished.
Oliver could not tell either way.
Maybe they had just fallen over.
Oliver sighed and kept running.In a moment he was on Windswept Way, Windblowne’s only road, which curled round the mountain from foot to crest like a coiled spring.
Oliver ran upward, passing under treehouses high overhead as the winds pushed him higher, faster.
He kept furtively to one side of the Way, hoping that the late hour meant he wouldn’t be noticed and snickered at.
Or worse, prevented from going to the crest at all.
He kept running up, up, up as the Way wound higher.Oliver’s fears were realized when he spied a member of the Windblowne Watch waddling down the Way and lighting the oil lamps on either side.
Like all members of the Watch, he was fat and friendly and long retired from a life of flying.
Normally the Watch had little to do in peaceful Windblowne, but each midsummer they were forced to rise from their usual seats on the balcony of their tavern headquarters to manage the crowds of tourists who came for the Festival.From the Hardcover edition.


Children's Books,Growing Up & Facts of Life,Friendship, Social Skills & School Life,Boys & Men,Science Fiction & Fantasy,Fantasy & Magic,Action & Adventure

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Comment List (Total:13)

  •     Such a great, original adventure. Boys and girls alike will enjoy it, as well as old and young. Lots of follow up info out there about actual fighting kites to further inspire imagination and research.

  •     WINDBLOWNE by Stephen MesserThe cover of Stephen Messer's debut novel immediately caught my eye and piqued my interest.

  •     You come to love Oliver quickly and want to see how he can overcome with the odds against him. The images of trying to fly and barely clearing the treetops are ingrained in my brain forever. Let your imagination be carried by the wind...

  •     Young adult and middle-grade fiction have been taking over the publishing industry and I, for one, am extremely happy about this fact.

  •     2010 was not a great year for fantasies. Sure, there were plenty of books that contained small fantastical elements, but titles that plunged the reader into entirely different...

  •     Stephen Messer's WINDBLOWNE is a fun romp between worlds through the eyes of Oliver, an aspiring fashioner and flier of kites in the kite-obsessed mountain village of Windblowne.

  •     Although I am neither a fan of fantasy nor a YA reader, I was won over by the wisdom in Messer's thoroughly realized windblown world. Windblowne is at once a tween adventure story in the tradition of The Wizard of Oz--a magic crimson kite pulls Oliver into different places and times where he encounters problems he must solve before he can return home--and a vivid metaphor for the connections between humans and their environment as well as their past and future. All this with interesting characters and funny dialogue, too. Buy, read, and enjoy!

  •     I'm actually not sure where to begin this review. I mean, so many things about this book are unique. But, since a cover is what we usually see first, I'll start there. Oh. My.

  •     In the town of Windblowne, kite-flying is no hobby. It's an obsession. It's an art. It's at the core of the identity of its quirky inhabitants. People here spend all year waiting for the legendary Ye Olde Festival of Kites where they might see kites designed as enormous dragons or entire schools of silk fish or even carrier kites that passengers ride in. And then there are the fliers. These brave souls take their kites up to the crest of the mountain above Windblowne and jump, attempting to ride the fierce winds and beat a record that's stood for over fifty years.Like everyone in Windblowne, Oliver dreams of beating that record. Too bad every kite he flies ends up in humiliating displays of destruction. Oliver is a terrible kite flier. He's an even worse kite-smith. He's also awkward and bumbling and delusional, swinging from being painfully aware of his limitations (which are many!) to being wildly over-confident of his perceived talents (which are few). He could easily be the best protagonist I've read about in years!As flawed as he is, Oliver is a deeply endearing, heroic, and hilarious character who I couldn't help but cheer for throughout this page-turning adventure.While Messer has many gifts as a writer--his craft is superb, his story excellently plotted, the world wildly original--what really grabbed me was the humor. Oliver is side-splitting funny. The villain Lord Gilbert (who is the evil version of Oliver's Great-uncle Gilbert in an alternate Windblowne) kept me in stitches. When this evil inventor captures Oliver, he introduces himself with: "I, of course, am Lord Gilbert, thought you may refer to me simply as `Lord,' if you wish. Although perhaps you could call me `Lord Great-uncle,' as I shall be more family to you than he ever was. No, that sounds absurd. `Lord Gilbert' will do."The best authors have a unique and captivating `voice.' Lemony Snicket. Neil Gaiman. Roald Dahl. Messer has this sort of `voice.' It pulls you into his weird and wonderful world. It bonds you to the characters--heroes and villains alike. It makes you eager for more of his books. I know I am.And I'll never be able to fly a kite again without wondering if I'm about to be yanked into the sky to a world of multiple moons, mad scientists, and madcap adventures.

  •     ]Windblowne by Stephen MesserKites with personalities? Evil kites that hunt and maim and a beloved kite that guides, protects, and leads a boy to discover his talents and destiny?Only a man who grew up flying kites in Maine and Arizona would conceive of a book in which kites fly between worlds and are harbingers of good and evil.Windblowne incorporates the innocence and fantasies of every kite-flying child who stands on the crest of a hill and wonders where his kite might take him--but packs in worlds of meaning and nuance.Upper elementary and middle school boys and girls will enjoy this fantasy about Oliver who lives in the world of Windblowne. In a community in which building and flying kites is prized, Oliver is a misfit.Despite desperate attempts, his kites fail and his peers ridicule him. But Oliver has an uncanny ability to listen to the winds' moans, cries and whispers that blow through the massive oaks populating his world. In addition, he possesses a keen sense of observation by which he creates internal navigational maps. These abilities remain unappreciated until the end of the book when he realizes the truth of his Great-uncle Gilbert's words, "Your talents lay elsewhere." Embracing his gifts enables him to accomplish far more than any of his peers.Messer clearly layers the perennial struggle of good vs. evil into this story. When Oliver is unwittingly taken to another Windblowne world, he meets two characters which are counterparts to people he knows -himself and his great-uncle. If I were using this novel in a classroom, I would probe students to consider the nature of these anti-heroes/alter egos. Resultant discussions could focus on how good and evil are present in all characters--both fictional and real.Having just published the July issue of Talking Story on Multiple Intelligences/Different Learning Styles, I have been thinking about the many different ways in which students learn and use their individual abilities. I recommend Windblowne as a book that will help students who grapple with embracing their own unique learning style and gifts.Kites with personalities? You bet. It will be a long time before I forget a crimson kite which nods, trembles, and fights for truth and justice.Happy kite flying.

  •     Great book for middle school. Purchased as a gift for an elementary school. Very unique and original story line. Also enjoyed by the adults in my book club.

  •     Details in this story (of which I won't say more and spoil it) got my imagination going well. I now view what I thought of as mundane in our world in a new way, and enjoyed the adventure.

  •     Windblowne isn't just the title of this week's book, it's the name of the fictional town in which our story takes place.


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