Beyond the Deep Woods


Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

May 10, 2012

eyond the Deep Woods is a children's book, so it is a quick read. It tells the story of Twig, an orphan boy who is being raised by a family of Wood Trolls in the Deep Woods. Because he is different from the Wood Trolls, Twig lacks friends, though Spelda, his wood-troll-mother, loves him dearly. However, now that Twig is thirteen years old, it is decided that he must go live with cousin Snettlebark, who lives nearby in the Deep Woods. Getting to Snettlebarks is no big deal, as long as you don't stray from the path through the Deep Woods!

It wouldn't be much of a story if Twig stayed on the path and arrived safely at Snettlebarks. Instead Twig finds himself lost in the Deep Woods, and what follows is a series of adventures, meeting various communities and being threatened by the fierce plants and animals of the forest. Twig's adventures are unrelated - he moves from one spot to another, simply wandering about without a real goal. Unfortunately, Twig isn't too resourceful. He gets into tight spots and says "Oh Gloamglozer! Somebody save me now!" It is mostly luck or the unexpected aid of another creature that bails Twig out of each tight situation. It would be better if he would show some cleverness to extract himself from some of these troubles. What was the reason for the caterbird? It promises to be there to help Twig out (though it isn't) - why is it devoted to Twig?

The setting of the Deep Woods is interesting - it is populated with unique and fierce plants and animals. It seems like a dangerous place - certainly there is room for plenty more adventures. The map at the beginning of the book shows some cities that are not part of this first story - clearly Twig's story is not ended. I always like flying ships, so the Sky Pirates have a lot of potential for further plots.

What makes Beyond the Deep Woods special is the illustrations by Chris Riddell. The book is lavishly filled with art work, there are multiple pictures in each chapter. It reminds me of the famous drawings done by John Tenniel for Alice in Wonderland. The illustrations add a lot to the story, without the art, Beyond the Deep Woods would be just a routine children's story. I tried looking up Chris Riddell website to see if he had a book of his artwork, but there does not seem to be any book available. I scanned in a couple of illustrations from Beyond the Deep Woods for you to admire here.