Review Blog

Aug 15 2012

In the Beech Forest by Gary Crew

cover image

Ill. Den Scheer. Ford Street, 2012. ISBN 9781921665578.
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Picture book for older readers. A young boy goes on a journey through the beech forest, 'Antarctic beech: ancient, primal. The oldest of trees.' Here he encounters many of the fearsome beasts that prowl through his computer games. Undaunted he reassures himself that the images and sounds that he sees can't be real and bravely he continues his journey.
Sometimes a book comes along that you believe will be on award lists and this is one of them. Gary Crew's narrative is beautifully crafted and sweeps the reader along on an imaginative journey of a strange and wondrous forest where the trees have gnarled and tortuous limbs and eerie beings play out deathly battles. Fantasy fans will recognise the quest that the boy goes on and live it with him as his imagination and then his common sense lead him through the dark world.
Den Scheer's illustrations, which gradually move from sepia to colour, are superb. There is much to examine in her fine detail as a young girl fights off an evil and quite terrifying monster. Indeed my imagination soared as I followed her parallel story and I needed time to think about what tale she was telling. I loved the final page where the young boy has been transformed into a hero with a swirling cloak and long boots. Indeed his venture, all alone, into the darkness of the forest, is heroic.
This is the type of book that requires the reader to think deeply about what is going on. It will be one that people will have differing viewpoints about and will engender a lot of discussion in a classroom both for upper primary and secondary students.
Pat Pledger

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