In the Beech Forest is a new picture book for older readers, written by Gary Crew and illustrated by newcomer Den Scheer. It is a fascinating and haunting read, with moody illustrations that are not married to the text.
Master story teller Gary Crew has hit the nail on the head yet again, with a dark and brooding tale about a young boy taking a walk through a beech forest.
“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.”
With these words Crew draws the reader into the forest along with the boy. With an imagination fuelled by the video games that he likes playing, he wanders through the forest to discover its heart. He goes on a journey through his own mind as much as through the physical forest — a journey that will undoubtedly alter him.
Den Scheer’s illustrations are moody and dark, with their black and white execution adding to the atmosphere. The first illustration is a literal interpretation of the text on the first page. But from there on, they take on a life of their own, plunging us into… the boy’s imagination? Or perhaps the secret, primal goings on of the forest? And slowly, with each illustration the boy ages and his clothes change — indication that the journey through the forest is perhaps a metaphor for the journey of life.
This is the sort of book that you can read again and again… each time gaining some new insight. I think it would be an excellent book for classroom study.
The ‘packaging’ of the book is interesting. It has a striking black hard cover with embossed gold lettering and one back and white illustration panel glued to the centre. It is tactile and beautiful and beckons one to pick it up and look inside. But this is hidden behind a rather dull paper dust jacket. The same illustration is lost in the overwhelming sepia/brown background. A real shame, as I fear that the dust jacket may result in less people picking up the book to discover its wonderful contents.
In the Beech Forest is an enticing book. Highly recommended for ages 10+!
Catch ya later, George
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