Dr. Fuddle and the Gold Baton by Warren L. Woodruff is more than a simple fantasy novel for young readers. With his Ph. D. in Musicology, Dr. Woodruff incorporates his expertise and love of music as well as history in order to create an entire new world for the reader to enter. This imaginative tale goes beyond the typical two dimensional novel. The author creates a three dimensional world, complete with its own unique philosophy, history and even a quasi spiritual- musical belief system. With the insertion of lively imagery, authentic historical details, history comes to life as the reader is introduced to Mozart, Bach and other well known historical figures- including Einstein himself!
The classic good against evil plot is reinvented with a music themed twist. Drawing from various religious sources, Dr. Woodruff creates his own credible music themed, alternate reality. This is an entirely newly invented world that integrates prophecy as well as a unique music based "creation" tale with the elements of the supernatural and magic. Armed with magical instruments, the five young children agree to go on a dangerous mission to save the world from evil. They are led by the eccentric, dramatic, mystical, kind Dr. Fuddle. These young children are the "messiahs" who fulfill ancient prophecy. They eagerly take on the role as the "Messengers of Music". Motivated by his dying mom's cryptic final message, young Tyler and his younger sister are convinced that this mission is what he had been waiting for. In this new world, past and present are joined and there exists no barriers between the physical and imaginary realm. Evil is represented by a dark musician Jedermann (similar to either Satan or Darth Vader from Star wars). This evil anti musical menace uses his sinister minions, the Seirens, to carry out his attacks. The attacks aren't just physical, but emotional and spiritual as well. These Seirens have the ability to disguise themselves and cleverly deceive their victims through temptation and doubt. This is especially evident in the scene where two Seirens disguise themselves as two of Bach's children. Taking advantage of their frustration at not having the ability to play their instruments, they tempt Leonard and Kathy into exchanging their magical instruments for counterfits. This is so similar to the tactics of Satan as described in the bible. In fact in the bible there are numerous stories of Satan tempting and deceiving people, beginning with Adam and Eve. Strangely enough the children's willingness to believe and participate in the unbelievable, and convince others to do the same is reminiscent of a textbook case of cult behavior. The dynamic, eccentric leader, Dr. Fuddle, gains the trust of Tyler and his younger sister when they are most vulnerable, after his mother's death. In turn, Tyler's dedication to the mission, fueled with a promise to help his sister, and save the world, gives him motivation to convince the rest of the gang. Peer pressure, and the offer of purpose and adventure, are effective in winning over the rest, including the skeptics. Obviously this story isn't about a cult, nevertheless these elements add plausible explanation of how well adjusted teenaged children are so willing to embark into an unknown adventure.
This book is sure to appeal to a wide range of readers. To address the skeptics, Leonard Lang, an A student who looks for the logic in everything, provides plausible quasi- scientific explanations for the unexplainable mystical and supernatural events. For example, he discusses the possibility of a worm hole to explain their entry into a completely new world. Kathy is the level headed, fashion conscious teenager, and Antonio is the typical loud, obnoxious, extroverted teenager.
This book contains some illustrations by Donna Burtch. The cover art and jacket illustrations look professionally designed and make the book very inviting. The book contains as illustration of each of the main characters, labeled beneath with the name of the character - reminiscent of the portraits in a school yearbook. Considering the richly imaginative world created by the author, it would have been nice if more art depicting scenes from the story, were included within the text. The "portrait" styled illustrations would have been more suitable either in the front of the book or the back rather than within the text itself. In the back of the book is a glossary of musical terms.
It is clear that to Woodruff, music is not simply a hobby. Music becomes a science and a religion. This is especially reinforced with the climatic ending. There is no doubt as to the spiritual significance of music for this author. The parallels with religion are striking. In the end the children become apostles as they are entrusted with the mission to "pass this joy to the next generation". Dr. Fuddle's true identity as a deity is revealed, as he gives the children his final words- "This is the day the universe has infused your souls with music! Let us rejoice forevermore!" (page 211)As a blogger I received this book published by The Story Merchant, from the author for the purpose of writing this review.