Can a child’s boundless and desperate imagination offer an escape from a cruel reality?
On the outskirts of Fairbanks, six-year-old Robbie meets a mesmerizing girl his own age, and together they explore the mysterious woodland surrounding their homes. The world they discover is built from their fantasies, and inhabited by creatures born from their dreams.
But while Robbie and Fristeen grow inseparable, Robbie’s parents are drifting apart, and Fristeen’s mother is coming undone. As their homes become increasingly unstable, the children travel deeper and farther into their private world. The forest—and the gods who inhabit it—becomes their refuge until, at summer’s end, they are forced to choose between the crushing prospects of the real world, and the lethal demands of their ideal one.
Told as a parable, and vividly observed, Too Far is an exhilarating and heart-breaking story of an end to innocence that captures the triumphs and follies of the child’s imagination as it struggles to remain boundless and free.
Q: In writing Too Far, you challenged yourself to conjure your inner six-year-old.
RS: I did two drafts of the book back in 1989 and 1990. The biggest problem I encountered was trying to remember what it was like to be six. The experience of creating a fantasy world in a natural setting—that I could recall. But a lot of the other things were difficult: I couldn’t summon up a six-year-old’s language or the practical details of what a child of that age can and can’t do. Can a six-year-old make a telephone call? I realized that I couldn’t get Too Far right unless I was very close to children of that age.
When my daughter, Sky, turned six I thought, I’d better stop what I’m doing and focus on Too Far. She lived for her fantasies, and she’d cultivated friendships with friends who have that same quality. This was my chance.
She participated in character development—not just Fristeen, but most of the other characters as well, especially Shivers. She also created the title font for the book. The story couldn’t have been written without her.
Q: What makes six so special?
RS: Something crucial happens at that age. Kids are past walking and talking, the imitation phase, the age-three declaration of independence, and so on. All the mechanical systems work. But the boundaries of the self aren’t yet frozen. The child is not clear about “what’s me and what’s not me.”
At that age, a child is capable of very sophisticated conceptions, and physically capable of real exploration. A six-year-old can go long and far, both mentally and physically. But they don’t yet understand the difference between fantasy and reality. A six-year-old doesn’t understand where the self stops and the world begins.
It doesn’t last long. My daughter is in second grade now. She’s seven, and the time of serious magic is nearly over. Fantastic creatures and imaginary companions have given way to her experiences in the real world. Eighteen months ago, she could look me in the eye and tell me that she flew behind the moon.
Too Far in the TooFar Media App
The multimedia version of Too Far combines Rich’s novel with visionary artwork by Eugene Von Bruenchenhein, and music featuring enchanting vocals by Maria Taylor.
Use your device’s camera to scan and download the TooFar Media App. Available on iOS and Android.