Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Children's Book Review, In the Beech Forest

Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson,

In the Beech Forest was written by Gary Crew, iIllustrated by Den Scheer, and published by Ford St (2012). It's a beautifully presented picture book for older kids, with Ford St suggesting 10+.

In the Beech Forest is a story from long ago, from now and from the future.

An ordinary boy takes a path leading him from the safety of his home into a dark forest. His head is full of the fearful images of his computer games that so excite, yet terrify him; battles between heroes and dreadful beasts that may haunt this primal landscape.
What will become of him on this journey? Will he survive? Will he defeat his fears? Will he emerge, still an ordinary boy?

Become his companion. Take the journey . . .

What a joy to be a librarian introducing this book to kids! I would love to witness their curiosity, intrigue and dawning comprehension, even wonderment as the story unfolds. It will particularly appeal to young gamers I believe, because the hero is himself a gamer, one who certainly understands the quest and its power to both excite and terrify.

Crew has given the reader so much language to ponder over and relish. Although the story-line is deceptively simple - a boy walks into an Antarctic beech forest - there is rich fodder for both young artists and young writers here. I loved the sibilance of "rustlings and scatterings and promises of life", and I swear if I'd been reading the book in the forest, I'd have been looking over my shoulder too.

Lots of children's picture books have a sub-text provided by the illustrations. Inside In The Beech Forest there is a sub-text, but it's one that's hinted at, leaving room for our imaginations to interpret what's going on. I think Scheer has done an excellent job of giving young readers illustrations that will stimulate thought, discussion, and also a more visceral reaction. I very much liked the way she used a limited palette, and then slowly introduced colour to underline the boy's renewal.

In the Beech Forest makes a wonderful acquisition for classrooms and libraries everywhere, but I hope you'll also consider buying it for your older primary and high school kids who may have previously thought they were "too old for picture books". Prove them wrong with this book!

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  1. I haven't read this one yet but it's on my list of 'want to read's. Sounds marvellous.


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