Thursday, September 8, 2011

Into the Woods

Title:               Into the Woods
Category:       Fantasy
Grade:            4-7
Author:          Lyn Gardner
Publisher:       David Fickling Books
:              New York
Date:               2006
Pages:             428

Though sharing a title, this book should not be confused with the well-known Sondheim musical or derivatives.  Gardner’s Into the Woods is a completely different story, yet interestingly, it is also fairy-tale based.  Young Storm Eden has little to do with herself besides chafing under the iron-fisted rule of her older sister, Aurora, until her mother gives birth to a baby sister and dies in the process.  Before she passes, Zella gives Storm an odd little pipe and warns her to keep it safe and to be wary of its power.  In the busyness of helping to raise her new sister, Anything (and learning to create fireworks), Storm almost forgets about the pipe.  One day strangers come to Eden’s End, an odd boy with one blue eye and one green, who seems to be both friend and foe, and the evil Dr. DeWilde, who will stop at nothing to have the pipe.  Threatened by Dr. DeWilde’s pack of wolves, Storm, Any, and Aurora flee and take refuge with Bee Bumble, a kindly old lady who cares for orphans in a house made of sweets.  Too late, the children discover she is not what she seems either, and Storm and Aurora must go on the hunt for the kidnapped Any, avoiding Dr. DeWilde and Bee Bumble along the way.  When Aurora too becomes ensnared, Storm makes a terrible and selfish choice that may cost her not one, but both of her sisters and perhaps even her own life.

As with many fairy-tale based books, Into the Woods sounds quite grim, but is actually a delightful and merry jaunt through some of the world’s most beloved stories.  Gardner references almost every major fairy tale and fantasy story known in this century, yet still manages to create a hilariously original and captivating tale.  Gardner’s writing is straightforward and easy to read, not unlike Jean Ferris or Lemony Snicket, and the characters, while larger-than-life, are well-realized and easy to warm to, particularly our young heroine, Storm.  Family is a powerful theme throughout the story.  While the story itself would be a wonderful read-aloud, the length of the novel may deter some younger readers who would otherwise enjoy it.  Children will enjoy the quick pace and the humor, along with Mini Greys supplements and illustrations, often integral to the action of the story.


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