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, 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.
A boy, a professed ordinary boy, ventures into the forest. His computer gaming experience suggests that in forests monsters lurk. But he continues, finding a path that may or may not be his. Deeper and deeper he ventures, and the further he goes, the less he is disturbed by noises of other forest-dwellers. Finally there is only darkness. He continues, despite a discomforting heightened awareness of the landscape around him. Potential threats occur to him, but when he spins, nothing is there. Illustrations reveal monsters in the shadows. Then, the boy begins to feel the pulse of the forest itself, the earth. And the unknown becomes known and he is strengthened. Illustrations, set in earthy surrounds, transition from black and white, with later images including an increasing level of red, the colour of excitement and danger.
In the Beech Forest is a story about facing fear and overcoming it, a rites of passage journey. But it is also about the contrast between the constructed world of the computer quest games and the real courage that it takes to encounter the non-game world with all its challenges. The boy is partly prepared for this journey by his knowledge of quest and monsters, but discovers much more about himself and his world when he engages directly with it. In the Beech Forest is aimed at older readers, and provides many themes for discussion. Text is mounted in frames on the left of each opening, image on the left, giving the feel of traditional tales. Recommended for secondary readers.
In the Beech Forest, Gary Crew ill Den Scheer
Ford St 2012 ISBN: 9781921665578
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond