Toby Alone by Timothee De Fombelle

Toby Alone

Written by Timothee De Fombelle

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Winner of the 2009 Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation. It is the second time translator Sarah Ardizzone has won the Award: she took it in 2005 for Eye of the Wolf by Daniel Pennac. She received it at the English-Speaking Union from Anthony Horowitz, who had taken no part in the judging but who later confided that Toby Alone was his favourite book on the shortlist.

What the judges said: An inventive adventure in a miniature world. Although just one and a half millimetres tall, Toby is a hero on a giant scale in this eco-story about the need to conserve resources. Toby's fight to save the tree from the predators who want to make use of it is passionate and exciting.

We think it's an exciting, gripping fantasy story of a miniature world under threat and a boy hunted by his own people. In a sentence, The Borrowers for the 21st Century. Be prepared to be transported into this amazing miniature land where dangers lurk around every nook and cranny for a boy who must try to stop the wonton destruction of his world, which in turn is bringing potentially unstoppable climate change. It'a a real page-turner and heart-rending too with some wonderfully detailed line illustrations, which compliment the story so well. Translated from the French by the award-winning Sarah Adrizzone and itself winner of numerous awards including France’s prestigious Prix Sorcieres and, in translation, Italy’s Premio Andersen prize.

The other titles shortlisted for the Marsh Award were Tina's Web, Letters From Alain, My Brother Johnny, When the Snow Fell, and Message in a Bottle.

The sequel to Toby Alone, Toby Alone 2: Toby and the Secrets of the Tree is now available


Toby Alone by Timothee De Fombelle

An awards-laden adventure of heroism, friendship and survival - with a powerful ecological message - set in a captivating miniature world. Toby Lolness is just one and a half millimetres tall, and he's the most wanted person in his world, the Great Oak Tree. When Toby's father makes a ground-breaking discovery, tapping into the very heart of the Tree's energy, he also realises that exploiting it - as some tree dwellers are doing - could do permanent damage to their world. Refusing to reveal the secret of his intention to an enraged community, the family is exiled. But one man is determined to get hold of the forbidden knowledge … and his plan is to destroy the Tree. Now Toby’s parents have been imprisoned and sentenced to death. Only Toby has managed to escape, but for how long?

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A message from the author:
I've described my novel as an adventure story, a chase, written as an escape from the reality I see from my study. I wanted the world I created to have the same laws as ours, and strangely my characters find themselves facing the same difficulties, problems and worries as we find on our own green - or less and less green - planet. The tree is a living organism, and a growing consciousness takes place little by little. There is a whole geography to the tree, a social order - the Lower Branches, the High Branches, new cities springing up on the outskirts of the traditional villages - and re-reading the book, I come to recognise that it has a serious message for us facing our own world at the start of this millennium.


'Narratives thread like a spider web across time and space, revealing hidden secrets at just the right moment. Sarah Adams's translation manages to retain a French tone in the English to distinctive effect.' The Guardian

'An action packed fantasy that ultimately sounds a serious warning about the threat to the natural world from the human race.' Books Quarterly

'Evocative illustrations ... The ethereal world it creates pulls the reader in and the ecological message is saved from feeling too forced.' The Observer

About the Author

Timothee De Fombelle

Timothée de Fombelle is a much-admired French playwright, as well as the author of award-winning fiction. His first series, Toby Alone and Toby Alone and the Secrets of the Tree has been printed in 27 languages and has won numerous awards including France’s prestigious Prix Sorcières and the Marsh Award. Timothée's adventure series, Vango, Book One: Between Sky and Earth and Vango, Book Two: A Prince Without a Kingdomreceived huge critical acclaim, and book one was granted an English Pen Award for translation. Timothee also contributed to the acclaimed collection The Great War: an Anthology of Stories Inspired by Objects from the First World War.

Timothée lives in Paris.

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Walker Books Ltd

Publication date

7th April 2008




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