Children of the Forest

Holiday House/Neal Porter. Apr. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780823447671.
Toddler-PreS–A boy revels in being a creature of the wild, living off the land and teaching his little sister the ways of survival. His narration leans into a sense of rugged isolationism: “What will become of us? No one knows. All we know is that Mother Nature will take care of us.” Meanwhile the illustrations slowly reveal the setting to be the children’s own backyard, and the day ends with the sister abandoning their tent for a hug from their mother and a cozy bed. The combination of spare text with lush illustrations will engage very young children, while the disconnect between the boy’s narration and the reality portrayed in the illustrations will intrigue and amuse older kids. The stubborn seriousness of the protagonist at maintaining his illusion, extending to calling his mother a “scavenger woman,” creates the slowly building humor of the book. Lush watercolor illustrations, full of greens and browns, evoke the wilderness of nature and a child’s imagination. Some children may be worried by a passage in which a “wild beast” (the family dog) is seemingly felled by one of the boy’s arrows, after which he says: “We will feast tonight, Sister. The drumstick is the best part.” The dog is pictured happily panting next to the playing children on the subsequent page.
VERDICT Celebrating the power of a child’s imagination and outdoor exploratory play, this book is particularly well suited to a read aloud and group discussion.

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