By Author / Illustrator
Gill Lewis, Rebecca Bagley
Oxford University Press
Paperback / softback
When Willow crosses the boundary to the patch of woodland behind her house, something amazing happens: she enters The Wilderness, where magic and nature collide. It holds more than you could possibly imagine: secrets, shadows, a witch. Even a monster. Here she meets the Wild Things, a group of children who have taken on the characteristics of the wild creatures they are named after. For when you are in The Wilderness, the only limit to the world is your imagination.To her family she is simply Willow. To her new friends and in her new world, she is Willow Wildthing.
With beautiful, lyrical storytelling from Gill Lewis, and stunning two-colour illustrations throughout from Rebecca Bagley, this is a joyful celebration of the power of nature and the imagination, encouraging children to explore, be curious, resilient, and adventurous.
Willow Wildthing and the Swamp Monster is the first in a new series adventure stories for younger readers from renowned storyteller Gill Lewis.
Willow is finding life tough - new house, new town, brother ill in hospital, and she keeps hearing a terrifying howling in the night. Luckily, Willow is a plucky kind of hero and so when her scruffy rescue dog, Sniff, is snatched by the Wild Things, she has no hesitation about following them into the Wilderness.
What follows is Gill Lewis's trademark mixture of nature and magic, where the boundary between the real and the imaginary is fluid and we can read the story on many levels. Willow quickly finds the 'Wild Things' are not as scary as they make out, as she joins them on an old-school adventure including dens next to the river, secret maps, a monster in a cave and marshmallows round the campfire.
For urban 21st Century children, Willow's adventure into a small patch of wild is a great introduction to the wonders of the natural world and a freer way of living. For those of us who grew up on Swallows and Amazons and the Famous Five, the book is comfort blanket of childhood imaginary games and seeing the world around us from a different viewpoint.
Illustrated throughout in soft green and grey, with short chapters averaging 7 pages, Willow Wildthing and the Swamp Monster is a great book for imaginative children ready to move on from Early Readers. For those who get hooked on Willow and the gang, they won't have too long to wait, as book 2 - Willow Wildthing and the Dragon's Egg - will be published in August.
144 pages / Ages 6+ / Reviewed by Carol Carter, school librarian
Suggested Reading Age 5+