Review taken from The Never Ending Bookshelf
Recommended for children 10 -13 years old.
The Beast Of Hushing Wood is an adventure style novel perfect from children on the cusp of young adulthood, but not necessarily ready for the older themes of Young Adult books. It’s the kind of book that will appeal to adventure/risk takers and lovers of magic and the unknown. It’s a book that continued to surprise me and kept me guessing for the entire 180 pages of the novel.
With adventurous themes and settings, magical aspects and mythological beings, there is a lot to take in and love about The Beast Of Hushing Wood. When the book opened, I expected a self-discovery-slash-coming-of-age style narrative and while there are elements of both of those things in the story, the narrative has so much more to offer in a remarkable short amount of pages.
For one, it’s illustrated! I can’t remember the last novel I read that had illustrations scattered throughout the pages and so I really enjoyed the illustrations that spanned everything from a two page spread to small chapter style headings. Not being familiar with the author’s previous work, I wasn’t aware at the time of reading that Wang is both the books author and illustrator and looking back knowing this gives the book a larger than life feeling. You can literally see and read the tale unfold before your eyes as the author intended it to be and that’s kind of magical in itself..
I loved the book’s sense of otherness. The world of Hushing wood and the town Ziggy and her friends call home is crowded in by the woods and not kind to foreigners. But then there is Ziggy, a spirited eleven year old who knows her own mind. She’s not easily mislead by the closed mind towns folk and uses logic and her limited knowledge of the world to problem solve. If anything I think the world needs more books about young girls like her. What’s more the use of Eastern mythology and the re-telling of those tales brings a sense of wholeness and completion to the story. By including these tales that many westernised kids are not used to, Wang is both teaching and widening the readers knowledge and social construction, while adding another level of mystical and compulsion to the book.
But perhaps my favourite aspect of the book was the insistence on the power of one’s imagination. There are countless examples within the novel that express to the readers that your imagination is fantastic. With children from 12 plus heading to a highly indoctrinated and exact educational system, our imagination and it’s place in our day to day lives is often forgotten and left behind. We are not taught to be creative and imagine life outside the walls presented to us, but it happens every day as a child, and again as a reader of any age through books.
“But the imagination isn’t real,” I say.
“People only say that because their power of imagination is weak. When it becomes strong, your imagination can take you to incredible places. These are real places, although you cannon touch them with your hands.’ He taps his chest. “True imagination is your door to a real world. Sometimes people glimpse this world when they’re not looking straight at it.”
The Beast Of Hushing Wood is a highly imaginative and creative story that will appeal to readers of all ages. The best way I can sum up the book is to suggest that it has the power and intensity of adventure of J.R.R Tolkein (with perhaps no where near half as many characters), the magical and paranormal immersion and focus of Holly Black’s Darkest Place Of The Forrest, the mythological presence of Rick Rordan’s Percy Jackson’s Series but the light heartedness and tenderness of a book suitable for readers from 10 plus, while remaining a safe stepping stone into Young Adult themes and narratives.