A funky little homeless family of refugees from a big city—hippie-ish mom, guitar-playing dad, boy, girl and white-haired granddad—discover the mysterious paths, strange creatures and hidden delights of Troll Wood, an abandoned forest.
In spite of the slightly sinister giant trolls, bits of whom peek out from surprising corners of every page, including the endpapers, the little family finds that the forgotten wood is a friendly place where they can find apples and plums to eat, flowers to pick, friendly animals to pet, and a house to fix up and live in. Hess’ softly textured illustrations in muted greens and browns nicely complement Cave’s simple but strangely compelling storyline. The poetic quality of the text, written largely in the second person, has a lyrical refrain that matches the mysterious mood of the story. Each page of short text ends with this refrain: “ ‘We will.’ And they did.” The final two spreads show the family’s can-do triumph. Unfortunately there is no attempt to synchronize the visual appearance of the text with the dreamy illustrations. The bland typeface and the unimaginative placement of much of the text in white boxes, while providing clarity, is a lost opportunity to integrate the type more closely with the illustrations. Given its nod to Where the Wild Things Are, it’s a shame the book doesn’t meet this particular design challenge with more elegance.
Overall, though, this unusual tale sends an appealing message about making the most of a bad situation. (Picture book. 5-8)