The Selected Works of TS Spivet, by Reif Larsen

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The Independent Culture

The Selected Works of TS Spivet is a joy; a colourful feast of a book. There have, perhaps, been better novels published this year (the narrative loses a little of its momentum towards the end), but few as bold or refreshing as Reif Larsen's debut.

The titular protagonist is a 12-year-old genius who spends his time making detailed scientific sketches of his surroundings on a Montana ranch. He sends them to the Smithsonian Institute, which promptly honours him with an award for the popular advancement of science. He sneaks away from home, hops on a freight train and heads to Washington DC to collect the prize.

The account of his adventure is engrossing and full of allusions to classic American literature. Larsen is an adept illustrator, and even when you have finished the story, you'll find yourself returning to peruse his pencil drawings of birds and bats and beetles. There's a lovely hand-crafted quality to the book, and even in paperback form it is a beautiful object.