Beware the deep dark forest by Sue Whiting
Ill. by Annie White. Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781742032344
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fear, Lost, Forests, Bravery. A wonderful tale of bravery and resilience is told in this attractive book, redolent of folk tales of the past. With nods to Red Riding Hood, amongst others, Rosie dives into the deep dark forest, despite all the stories she has heard, to find her little dog, Tinky. He has run where no one dares to run, where everyone is told not to go, into the forest full of carnivorous plants and venomous snakes. Rosie's dad and gran hesitate at the beginning of the woods, but it is Rosie who plunges forward, grappling with the close standing trees and the vines which wrap around the trunks and loop between the trees. She strides through the mud, getting a little wobbly at the sounds she hears. She doesn't see any carnivorous plants or venomous snakes, but she does come across several obstacles in her search for her little dog. She navigates a way around each obstacle with panache, until at last she finds Tinky. When the last of the obstacles, a menacing, monstrous, muddy troll is dispatched, she is able to retrieve Tinky and return to her dad and gran.
An entertaining story about bravery, readers will love the courage shown by Rosie in the face of unknown hurdles, willing her to reach Tinky, and not a little fearful along with Rosie about the path she has chosen. The repetition, 'But she could't see any carnivorous plants, and she couldn't see any venomous snakes' will be repeated by all listeners as the story is read to them, reinforcing Rosie's bravery in the face of rumours about the forest.
The luminous watercolour illustrations will be pored over by the readers, intent on absorbing the details of the forest, marvelling at the intricacy of the vines, sometimes snakes, mostly covered with nasty thorns, sometimes turning into carnivorous plants, but always filling the page, narrowing Rosie's path. Readers will follow the paths of the vines on the endpapers, again, alluding to Sleeping Beauty, or Beauty and the Beast, encouraging them to recall other folk tales they have heard. A wonderful read aloud, Beware of the deep dark forest will be read over and over by everyone who sees it.