Tuesday, June 23, 2009

REVIEW: Darkwood

Breen, M.E.  (2009).  Darkwood.  New York:  Bloomsbury Children's Literature.


An orphan named Annie (no relation to the musical Annie) lives with her uncle and aunt who are far from wonderful caregivers.  Annie misses her dead sister as well as her lost friend, Gregor, who along with many other children in the area has been taken by the beastly and hungry Kinderstalk.

Annie overhears her uncle planning to sell her into service at the Drop, a place that Annie is certain will lead to hear death.  Instead, she chooses to run away, an effort that will take her into the woods and on to many dangerous places with her two cats by her side.  Within her first hours of running, Annie encounters the kinderstalk as well as a strange scarred man who is looking for her and a child that is "marked."  What does this have to do with Annie and her new found ability to see in the dark (and, I would argue, her magic ability to overhear many important conversations at just the right time)?  Will she find her way to safety?    And will she be able to help other lost children?

This fantasy feels like a fairy tale, incorporating many of the same themes, tensions and relationships often present in such stories.  The forest described could easily be the Black Forest incorporated into many of the folktales the Grimm brothers collected.  But what is interesting is the fact that the main protagonist and the majority of helpful supporting characters are all female, something the Grimms never really managed.

While the writing is good, I found it easy as a reader to accidentally miss some plot points that could have been emphasized more.  Several time I asked myself, "Wait, how'd we get here?" or "What did I miss?"  Overall, this story never truly managed to completely capture my attention the way I would have liked it to.

Activities to do with the book:


Darkwood has a decidedly German fairytale vibe to it.  It could easily be paired with some of the Grimm's tales for comparison. 

In response to reading this book, students could write their own stories, create illustrations of the kinderstalk or their own invented beasts.  As they learn more about the kinderstalk, they could create new illustrations to show how their perceptions of the creatures have changed.

Since child labor is presented in the novel, a teacher could take this on as a moment to describe the history of child labor in the U.S., the laws preventing it, and how it continues to be an issue worldwide.  


Favorite Quotes:


 "The sun sets so quickly in Howland that the people who live there have no word for evening.  One minute the sky is blue or cloud gray, the next minute it is black, as though someone has thrown a heavy blanket over the earth" (p. 1).

"After seven centuries, you think the moon is going to show its face for you?  Come away from there now and set the table."

Annie Trewitt took a small step back from the window.  She had seen pictures of the moon in books, copied from older pictures in older books, copied from the oldest books of all" (p. 1).


"The Drop.  They were sending her to the Drop, and she would die there" (p. 8).

"Darling, what do you wish for?  The dark is drawing near" (p. 72).

"I have a message for the king, and I'm going to the palace to give it to him" (p. 88).

For more information, on Darkwood click here, or to find out more about M.E. Breen from other bloggers, check out the following links:

1 comment:

  1. I had many connections to Hansel and Gretel, too! (Maybe that's one of my problems with much of fantasy; too many times it seems like the same tales retold.) It was nice to have the addition of ringstone and the characters of the faithful kitties.



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