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Willow Wildthing and The Swamp Monster

Willow Wildthing and the Swamp Monster

Published: 5 Mar 2020

Paperback / softback, 144 pages

Recommended for age 5+ and 7+

By Gill Lewis

Illustrated by Rebecca Bagley

Published by Oxford University Press

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When Willow crosses the boundary to the patch of woodland behind her house, something amazing happens: she enters The Wilderness, where magic and nature collide. It holds more than you could possibly imagine: secrets, shadows, a witch. Even a monster.

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.
This title features in our The Reading Journey selection.

Tagged environment , exploration and natural world

The Willow Wildthing series

Willow Wildthing and the Shooting Star
Willow Wildthing and the Swamp Monster
Willow Wildthing and the Magic Spell

The Explorers Camp, Lower Key Stage Two

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The Reading Journey Full Set LKS2 2021

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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.

Kate recently trained as a teacher, after many years as a TA, and now works in a large Cambridgeshire primary school. One of her favourite parts of the job is sharing the love of reading, both with children who already have the passion and with those whose enthusiasm needs whetting. As well as children's books she enjoys crime fiction and historical novels, biography and Christian theology... and anything else that looks appealing. When not reading, she will probably be knitting, walking her energetic springer spaniel or chatting over coffee. She has three grown up children, and doesn't notice when clutter accumulates, so it invariably does.