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Review: The Beast Of Hushing Wood by Gabrielle Wang

on May 15, 2017

The Beast Of Hushing Wood
Gabrielle Wang
Puffin Books
2017, 180p
Copy courtesy Penguin Random House AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

By the award-winning author of The Wishbird. A powerful magic realism story about Ziggy Truegood, a young girl who has a premonition that she will drown on her 12th birthday.

Ziggy Truegood lives in a tiny town deep in Hushing Wood, where strange things are happening. The townspeople are fighting, Ziggy feels like something is hunting her, and her beloved woods have become dark and hostile. When exotic Raffi and his grandfather arrive in town, Ziggy finds herself strangely drawn to them. But are they there to save Ziggy, or are they the hunters?

Thought-provoking and engaging, The Beast of Hushing Wood is a lovely blend of action, fable and magic realism.

I’ve been reading a bit more middle grade fiction of late as that’s the stage my oldest son is about to head into and I’m curious to see some of what’s around for this demographic that isn’t about bums. It’s a bit of a tricky age, especially as my son is an advanced reader but perhaps slightly immature. “Baby books” bore him but he struggles to find middle grade books that hold his interest so I’m always keen to try and find something that might interest him. Although I quite enjoyed this, I’m not sure he would to be honest. I get the feeling he’s too literal to embrace the whimsical side of this book!

Ziggy lives with her mother in a small town that borders a wood. The town is quite insular, suspicious of outsiders. Ziggy’s father was an outsider who ended up leaving and Ziggy’s two brothers went with him. Ziggy misses them all terribly and she hopes to visit them someday but her mother’s fear of leaving the town at the moment makes that impossible. Ziggy spends a lot of time in the woods near her house and doesn’t fear them as many others do. She also spends time with grandfather, a wise man who is now in a home because his mind is slipping.

Ziggy has begun having the same dream every night, that she will drown on her twelfth birthday which is in in the coming weeks. She has confided this to her two closest friends but not to anyone else and seems to be mostly struggling to deal with this on her own. At around the same time we meet Ziggy, a new student named Raffi comes to the school and Ziggy is immediately suspicious that he might have something to do with her dream.

Ziggy is a fun character, she’s brave and funny but with vulnerability to her too. I liked her affinity with the forest and her lack of pretense. She dresses differently to the other girls at school and acts differently but she stays true to herself. There are a lot of themes in this book that revolve around that sort of thing – being different, bullying and ostracisation at school, small town small mindedness, that sort of thing and I think that a lot of children within the 10-13 year age range would find things to identify with.

I enjoy magical realism so I liked the way that was woven into the story and there were some really interesting things happening but the build up felt better than the pay off, like it all rushed toward a conclusion in a way and the the conclusion took up a very small amount of page space. I have never read Gabrielle Wang before and the world of middle grade fiction is new to me. I didn’t even really read it when I was at the age it’s aimed at – I was always aiming to read higher. I feel like I need to learn more about it and books like this are a really good place to start. I’d love to read some more from this author, particularly The Wishbird.

I found this book quite a nice story, tackling some pertinent themes but there were times when I definitely wanted a little more from it – a fleshing out of characters, some supporting information or even just another conversation. The illustrations are cute, simple and yet somehow detailed as well and would probably serve to break up the text for struggling readers and give them a visual.


Book #83 of 2017

The Beast Of Hushing Wood is book #28 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017



One response to “Review: The Beast Of Hushing Wood by Gabrielle Wang

  1. I have a boy about the same age and his big thing is Star Wars.
    But… we also found Zac Power to be a big hit, and there are a couple of different reader levels.

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