Willow Wildthing and the Swamp Monster
Gill Lewis, illustrated by Rebecca Bayley
Oxford University Press
This story introduces a super new character, Willow Wildthing in the first of a series to be.
Willow has just moved into a new home in a different town; everything feels strange, alien even. Left to her own devices, she decides to go exploring with just her dog Sniff for company. No sooner have they sallied forth than something startles Sniff and he vanishes.
Giving chase, Willow comes upon four grubby-looking children calling themselves the Wild Things who have seized Sniff saying they need him for a mission.
When Willow stands her ground the Wild Things (Fox, Raven, Mouse, Hare) agree (mostly) to let her accompany them.
But is she brave enough to enter the Wilderness? It’s a kind of wood but not just any wood, a secret place where anything can happen, a place wherein a wild monster dwells.
It means crossing some very murky water and going barefoot. Oh yes, it’s also a place where magic seeps into you regardless of whether or not you want it to; and you can only enter through the Holloway.
It’s said that a witch lives in the Wilderness too, though Mouse insists she’s the writer who came to talk at school; witch or writer, or both? The woman tells them in answer to Fox’s ’what do you do?’ – ‘I suppose you could say I conjure openings into other worlds.’
Eventually Willow decides that accompany them she must, Sniff’s help is needed in locating and rescuing another member of their group – Bear; but his is not the only rescue they undertake. They locate the source of the howling Willow heard on her first night in the new house.
All ends satisfactorily with Willow being accepted as a member of the Wild Things and there’s the promise of another mystery waiting to be solved.
And as for magic, let’s say yes to that, the best magic of all being, friendship.
Gill Lewis lyrical manner of telling this tale immediately engages the reader holding your interest throughout with its mixing of the enchantment of the natural world and that conjured up by the imagination. Rebecca Bagley’s two-colour illustrations are a delight too. The book is one likely to engender in children the urge to be curious, thirsty for adventure and resilient, as well as open-hearted and kind.