From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3–After a stormy night, a boy awakens to find his father gone. The child misses him terribly, though the specifics of his whereabouts are unstated. When the boy's mother asks him to take a basket to Grandma, who is not feeling well, she warns him not to take the shortcut through the forest. Worried that he might not be home when Dad returns, the child disobeys. Starkly illustrated in black and white, with color used to highlight the boy, this forest is quite ominous. The trees are full of spikes as he enters, and gnarled with faces that loom over him on ensuing pages. The boy encounters a variety of recognizable, if a bit mean, fairy-tale characters–Jack trying to sell his cow, Hansel and Gretel, and a selfish Goldilocks. He even finds a red coat, completing his transformation as Red Riding Hood. Recalling a story his grandmother told him about a bad wolf, the boy is terrified to open her door. Yet in a surprisingly reassuring twist, he finds his comforting Grandma, who's feeling better, and also his dad. Browne's text is deceptively short, leaving much room for interpretation. As usual, his hyperrealistic, pencil-and-watercolor illustrations are full of rich details. Each child may take something different from this psychological picture book, but the reassuring ending is especially comforting. It is possible to go into the forest of dreams/the imagination and emerge even stronger.–Robin L. Gibson, formerly at Perry County District Library, New Lexington, OH
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Gr. 3-5. In this picture book for older children, Browne's beautiful surreal imagery reveals a child's terror in ordinary life. A young boy wakes up one morning to find that Dad is gone. There is emptiness everywhere. When sad Mom asks the boy to take a cake to Grandma, he chooses the forbidden path, and he is lost in the wood. The clear pencil pictures of the forest, with only the boy in bright watercolors, show bare, shadowy trees full of frightening spikes, gaping holes, and branches like thick tentacles. As his journey progresses, the boy encounters contemporary kids in elemental fairy-tale roles-- among them, Red Riding Hood and a bespectacled brother and his sobbing sister who have been abandoned by their parents. Finally, the boy knocks on the door of Grandma's cottage--and finds Dad inside. As with most fairy tales, there's a huge turnaround at the close--a happy return home, presented in glowing color. The power of the story is in the fearful detail that reveals the child's nightmare of being forsaken. Readers older than the elementary-school audience may want to talk about the story's connection to timeless fairy tales such as "Hansel and Gretel" as well as its psychological underpinnings. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved