Review Blog

May 15 2012

In the Beech Forest by Gary Crew

cover image

Ill. by Den Scheer. Ford Street, 2012. Hbk., RRP $29.99. 9781921665578.
"He was an ordinary boy, nothing special, and he went into the forest alone. He had no particular purpose other than to look, as adventurers do, or to slay imaginary monsters, as children do, so he held his head high, and gripped his toy sword, just in case. But as withered leaves shifted, and grey shadows lengthened, he hesitated, remembering his computer games, the fearful quests he encountered there, the dreadful heroes, the beasts unconquered and he wondered if such wild fantasies might threaten here."
Is truth, indeed, stranger than fiction? Can the magic and mystery of nature conjure up more than the most amazing brains dedicated to scaring the pants off you via the screen? As he walked deeper into the forest he heard 'rustlings and scatterings and promises of life' but gradually all quietened and stilled and there was only silence and darkness. This is Gary Crew at his best, as he takes the boy on a journey, not only through the forest but also through his own soul as he conquers his fears and finds himself and his power. The story is accompanied by the most evocative images by newcomer Den Scheer, who must be in line for the Crichton Award for new illustrators in 2013. The sepia tones, set in a border of stone add to the feeling of ancient, dark, and mysterious times and places enrich and enhance the text in a perfect marriage.
Crew is one of the masters of the picture book for older readers and this is no exception - it is sure to entice and engage even the most reluctant reader. My prediction is that this will be on the 2013 CBCA shortlist, and the artistry of Den Scheer will become as well-known as other leaders in the picture book field.
Barbara Braxton

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