It is exciting stumbling unexpectedly upon a book that catches one unaware, making one both think and feel in a different way than before. Whispers in the Woods is such a book. It is a traditional and at once quiet tale that looks back to medieval life and traditions, in so doing offering peace and solace from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
Taking the legendary green children of Woolpit as its inspiration, Whispers in the Woods deftly takes its child protagonists Fern and Hickory on a quest for ultimate self-knowledge and acceptance. What is so admirable in this is the way the tale captures the mood, music, movement and motions of medieval English life whilst covertly questioning issues of nurture and nature in the two children’s development.
The gentle narration and the endearing depiction of Fern and Hickory make this a likeable and comforting story. That is not to say the tale is not also resonant. The children’s persecution by witchfinder Silas of Wickham draws parallels with race issues of the present day. Similarly, the children’s relationship with nature stimulates thinking about our contemporary relationship with the environment. Interwoven into the tale are legends, folk-lore, a brief grounding in the origins of surnames and etymology, and an overview of mediaeval castle life.
On a purely practical level, production values on some of the illustrations are low, preventing them from properly complementing the text. The inclusion of a glossary is useful in providing an understanding of some of the more specialised language.
A welcome addition to the bookshelf.