Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Children’s Books: In the Beech Forest by Gary Crew, illustrated by Den Scheer

In the Beech Forest (Ford Street) is not the kind of picture book you read to your five-year-old. It’s aimed at an older age group, around ten upwards. If you can bring yourself to part with the book, you can give it to your older child.

The storyline is simple: a boy leaves behind his computer games for a walk in the beech forest.
“A beech forest,” his father told him. “Antarctic beech: ancient, primal. The oldest of trees.”
But as the artwork suggests, he doesn’t really leave the computer games behind. Among the gnarled roots of these ancient, primal trees a damsel confronts -- and defeats -- a monster that might be a part of the towering trees. By the end of his walk, the boy will have a more positive view of the forest and the earth of which we are all a part.

So, what happens when a well-known writer of dark YA tales combines with a young artist who completely understands his theme? You get a book that is beautiful to look at and teaches you something at the same time.

Den Scheer’s exquisite sepia-to-color pieces don’t simply illustrate the text, they interpret it. Computer game monsters that fight in the forest of the boy’s mind are nevertheless a part of the forest through which he is walking. The style suggests woodcuts. Each piece of text or art is framed in stone, with fossil leaves hinting at how very ancient the forest is. And this artist is 18. Lucky Ford Street to have become her first publisher!

If this book doesn’t end up on next year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia shortlist or the Crichton Awards for new artists, there is no justice! ◊

Sue Bursztynski lives in Australia, where she works as a teacher-librarian. She has written several books for children and young adults, including Crime Time: Australians Behaving Badly and, most recently, the YA novel Wolfborn. Her blog, The Great Raven, can be found at http://suebursztynski.blogspot.com.

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Blogger Rachel said...

When will this book be available? I cannot find it on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca. I live in the US and often find the books you review are hard to find.

Monday, April 2, 2012 at 10:03:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Linda L. Richards said...

That's because our reviewing team is international and the books we review reflects this. For example this particular book is about to be released in Australia. Other recently reviewed books were released in the U.S., Canada and UK. Our mandate is to talk about terrific books available in the English language. Your question makes me wonder, though: maybe we should be flagging availability in which country as part of the review?

Monday, April 2, 2012 at 11:50:00 AM PDT  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thanks for your reply. I re-read the review after I posted and realized it was an Australian publication. So sad for me but I LOVE the variety of books you review and often can track down one version or another. It would help if you listed availability by country or maybe even just country of publication (e.g. In the Beech Forest (Ford Street, Australia)), but it's not essential. Cheers!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 6:52:00 PM PDT  
Blogger Sue Bursztynski said...

Rachel, you should be able to get it through Fishpond, which ships internationally. It will be available on May 1.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 at 2:49:00 PM PDT  

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