One of young children’s favorite pastimes is going for an adventure walk. It’s a time of discovery, of courage, of letting one’s imagination run wild–and that’s exactly what can happen when young children and the adults who read to them open Through the Forest, by Steffie Brocoli.
Although Through the Forest is about real-life adventures in the forest, it begins with a fantastical salute from Mother Forest, who tells young readers that she is “at least a billion years old…[and] has lots of things to show you [if]… you come for a walk with me.” She goes on to explain that the forest is full of surprises, and that the children themselves have a choice in the types of adventures they experience simply by going north or going south.
The book is indeed full of surprises. It has fifteen (15) over-sized pages of adventures, but the pages and their corresponding adventures are experienced in random order. For example, when children begin their cuckoo-bird-filled walk on Page 2, they do not proceed to Page 3; rather, they are directed to Page 4, where they see dense trees and come face-to-face with wild boar. Since the boar are probably not happy to see the young adventurers, the children can choose to climb a tree and go to Page 6, or turn and run as fast as they can to Page 11. The page they choose determines how their adventure proceeds.
Depending upon the choices they make, children can explore waterfalls, discover insects, and even investigate strange sounds. They can encounter deer, observe badgers, or camp out in the darkness to wait for the sun to reappear. All the while, they understand that whatever they experience is a result of the personal, free-will choices they make.
This book is a young adventurer’s delight. The prose has a “pep rally” feel that gets children amped and ready to explore. Notably, the book is not so much about how many alternatives Ms. Brocoli offers her young readers; it is that Ms. Brocoli proves to young adventurers that variety lies in the simplest choices we make – including choosing between turning left or right or forging straight ahead. The collage-like artwork (Catherine Bidet) is soft, plush and kid-friendly so that whether children end up in the dark or up a tree to escape wild animals, the scenario is not scary at all; just thrilling, the way any adventure should be.
This book should do well in inspiring creativity, curiosity, and even love of the great outdoors. Use it in the classroom or at home, just before an adventure in your own backyard.
Best wishes and happy adventures,