Wednesday 17 August 2022

By Ash, Oak and Thorn - Melissa Harrison

Three of the Hidden Folk - Moss, Burnet and Cumulus - leave their home to search for the reason Cumulus (the oldest of them) has started to fade away. In their quest for answers they travel away from the garden where they live to an old oak tree and then even further to the home of the humans - The Hive.

 I wanted to like this much more than I did and whilst there were bits of it that I enjoyed I found it too flowery and overly descriptive for my liking. In places I really wanted the author just to get on with it. I'm not aware of the original books that inspired this story so it may be that the style used by the author developed from there but I definitely think it's a book you need to be in the mood to read. I was torn between giving it C+ or D+ but in the end have chosen the higher rating because there were parts of it that are beautifully written.

Things that I liked - the way that a lot of natural history was woven into the story was well done and there are some lovely descriptions of animal behaviour - I especially liked the information on hares and the phases of the moon. It's just in places it felt overwhelming - too much description and not enough actually happening.

 There are some wonderful and deep moments (sentences) that stand out:- 

"Few things feel worse than helping search for someone who's got lost..." 

"The world doesn't stop when something terrible happens." 

I also loved how in places you had to read between the lines to see the truth of what's happening, for example when the deer talked of what they believed happened to the wolves - you are in a position of knowing but they are not and I think that added a needed depth to the story. (Bearing in mind that this story is set in the UK and we currently have no wolves - the deer are not completely convinced).

I feel the recommended age range (9-12 years) may be slightly high due to the style of the story but I think younger children would either need help reading or have the story read to them.

At the end of the book there are some nice extras - Watching the Wild World which covers things to look out for from March to August, and a list of things to watch; things to do and things to read.

 The ending is uplifting, positive and inspiring - and I think that is what raised it to a C+ read for me. It did make me feel that I wanted to get out and do something for the natural world.

 Overall - I don't think this is a story for everyone, but children who have an interest in the natural world will probably find it more engaging.

(I received a free copy of this book to review.)