Colin Meloy Will Teach Your Hipster Kids About Murder and Rape

Colin Meloy, the high-pitched, baby-faced frontman of The Decemberists, has published the first novel in a trilogy of children’s books with the help of his wife, illustrator Carson Ellis. The Wildwood Chronicles centers around Prue McKeel, a 12-year-old vegetarian from Portland whose baby brother is kidnapped by a murder of crows. Because of course it does.

The dark colors in the first volume of “The Wildwood Chronicles,” titled “Wildwood” and recently published by Balzer & Bray, should not surprise anyone familiar with the band’s playfully roguish songbook, which includes, amid seafaring yarns and espionage procedurals, blanching descriptions of rape, torture and the serial murder of children.

The book, intended for ages 9 to 12, brims with grimly comic violence. Coyotes dressed in Napoleonic uniforms train musket, cannon and bayonet on woodland bandits, talking birds and an industrious rat named Septimus. Many perish in the fight, although not nearly as many as Decemberists fans might be accustomed to.

The first novel is already set for a stop-motion animated feature, surely to rival the twee preciousness of Wes Anderson’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which also featured wild animals wearing formal garb. The pirate-rock singer might have an advantage here, what with the growing interest in teaching pre-adolescents about rape and mass murder with a fantastical backdrop. But is this a series for actual children, or rather for Williamsburg denizens who have a fondness for regressing into an adolescent state?

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