Here she meets the Wild Things, a group of children who have taken on the characteristics of the wild creatures they are named after. For when you are in The Wilderness, the only limit to the world is your imagination. To her family she is simply Willow.
To her new friends and in her new world, she is Willow Wildthing. With beautiful, lyrical storytelling from Gill Lewis, and stunning two-colour illustrations throughout from Rebecca Bagley, this is a joyful celebration of the power of nature and the imagination, encouraging children to explore, be curious, resilient, and adventurous.
Reviewed by Kate Hitchings
Willow Wildthing and the Swamp Monster will be enjoyed as an entertaining and gripping quest; it is also a thought-provoking story about the power of imagination and the conquest of fear.
Willow has recently moved house, and the upheaval is exacerbated by worry about her little brother in hospital. After hearing mysterious howling, Willow is alarmed when her dog, Sniff, is snatched from her garden. She follows, finds he has been taken by the ‘Wild Things’ and is thus caught up in a trek across the Wilderness and a search for the swamp monster … but nothing is quite what it seems.
This book would be well worth reading aloud to a KS1 class. It is superbly atmospheric, especially when creating a mood of fear and suspense. At the same time, it is rich in humour; the gap between the children’s imagined scenario and the more mundane reality could provoke interesting discussions. Initially, I was concerned that the boundary between truth and imagination sometimes seems blurred, but this becomes a theme (‘If you can imagine it, why can’t it be real?’) and thus ultimately a strength. At the end of the book, there are instructions for how to make a den, which could be an ideal stimulus for children to re-imagine their surroundings, as Willow’s new friends transform the ‘scrubby… wasteland’ that the adults see into the thrilling Wilderness of their adventures.
Willow Wildthing and the Swamp Monster also touches deftly on dealing with the ‘invisible monsters’ of worry, fear and jealousy; it is a book that will build empathy and resilience.