Tuesday, September 27, 2016
In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll
From time to time school libraries and Teacher-Librarians debate the pros and cons of changing the organisation of fiction collections to reflect genre rather than using the traditional arrangement by author surname.
In Darkling Wood is a book that shows the complexity of using genre to classify fiction. In Darkling Wood has historical elements, it is a fantasy with fairies, there is a strong environmental message and it is also a story about family relationships. Not one of these themes or genres would adequately categorise this engrossing book.
Alice's brother needs a heart transplant. Theo is only seven years old. Dad has moved away and started a new family so it is up to Alice and her mum to get Theo to hospital when they receive the late night message that a compatible heart has become available. Alice cannot stay at the hospital so she is picked up by her grandmother - a reclusive and angry lady she has never met.
Nell lives two hours from London down a remote track. Her home is called Darkling Cottage taking the name from the surrounding Darkling Wood. The trees become a metaphor for the darkness in Nell's life. Her younger son died when he was only eleven, she is estranged from her older son, Alice's father, and her efforts to remove the woods which endanger her home seem to be constantly thwarted. Running alongside this story we read letters sent to a young soldier serving in World War I. Alfred's sister writes from Darkling Cottage in 1914 sharing her excitement. She has found and even photographed fairies in the woods.
Meanwhile Alice meets a young girl called Flo. "She looks about my age, only smaller than me. And she's wearing the weirdest outfit. Her boots make me think of ice skates without the blades, and she;s got on what looks like a petticoat. Over the top of it, her red coat reaches almost to the ground."
Here is a ten out of ten review and one from Love Reading 4 Kids.
Emma Carroll is a wonderful storyteller and with In Darkling Wood she has taken quite a gallop of different aspects- the past and the present, the real world and a magical alternative- and blended them seamlessly into Alice’s story.