Review Blog

Apr 17 2008

Woodenface by Gus Grenfell

cover image

Usborne, 2007.
(Ages 10+) This is a frightening story set in the year 1650, in a real village in the Yorkshire Pennines. Gus Grenfell vividly tells the story of Meg a young girl who believes that the wooden figures she carves have the ability to move and speak to her. There is the Seeing-Eye, which helps her see things when she is not present, Dilly-Lal who dances and Bolly-Bolly who has been carved from a special yew tree. Meg is accused of witchcraft and flees her village hoping to meet her father who has been selling cloth in a nearby town. However disaster has also befallen him when he is charged of stealing cloth and put in goal. Meg is forced to help her father and fight the evil demon that stalks her with the assistance of some travelling performers.

Grenfell has written a compelling and fast moving story with magic and superstition at its core. His writing is very vivid and brings to life a time when people believed that demons could possess people and ancient wood had the ability to come alive. The smells and scenes of 17th England, its marketplaces, taverns, travelling performers, cemeteries and woods and the horror of the gibbet are all skillfully portrayed.

All the characters, including minor ones, seem real. The evil Mr Sutcliffe who is ready to lie and murder to get his own way and the dithering minister are well portrayed as are the children who mature as they face adversity. The power of good versus evil is a central theme and permeates the story.

This book has been put on the longlist for the Branford Boase Award. It is a memorable if frightening read.
Pat Pledger

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