Title: Willow Wood
Author: Laurie Melrose
Publication Date: May 15, 2013
Publisher: Booklocker.com, Inc.
Recommended Ages: 9+
Reviewed by: Renee and Danielle (Mother and Daughter)
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When twelve-year-old Caitlin O’Toole learns that she’s part Fairy, and royalty to boot, will she jump for joy or hide in bed for the rest of summer?
During her summer visit to Aunt Maeve’s green home in Northern California, Caitlin comes face-to-face with a band of Fairies who tell her, in no uncertain terms, that she must correct the damage that Bumbles (otherwise known as humans) have caused; global warming, pollution, extinction of animals… and, oh yes, most importantly, the deaths of Fairies!
“Fairies? Here? Really? Isn’t that kid’s stuff? And, aren’t fairies supposed to live in England, or Ireland…or in fairy tales?” asks Caitlin.
As Caitlin’s Bumble-mind opens up to a world of new possibilities, magic trespasses into her everyday life. Pixies harass her during a hike, animals talk to her, and Spirit Orbs float mysteriously in the barn. Will Aunt Maeve discover Caitlin’s secret life and special powers? Can Caitlin possibly correct the damage that Bumbles have caused in her village and the world?
* Willow Wood received an honorable mention in The Southern California Book Festival. *
1. What is this book about? This book is about a 12 year-old girl named Caitlin who goes to her aunt Maeve’s house in the country every summer. Her little brother Harrison also goes with her. Caitlin meets some fairies who tell her she needs to save the environment because the fairies are dying. She finds out that a farmer in the area is using pesticides on the vegetables they are growing and they have built a dam which blocks the water from flowing. Caitlin is part fairy so she helps stop the farmers from doing those things.
2. What do you think of the cover and/or the pictures in the book? I liked the cover but I would have liked to see what Caitlin looks like.
3. What is your favorite part of the book? I have a lot of favorite parts but I really like that Caitlin discovers a whole magical land with fairies, pixies, and spirit orbs. I like reading stories like that because they are fun.
4. Is there anything you didn’t like about the book? I didn’t like that it took a long time to get to the good parts (when she finally meets the fairies). I wish it could have gotten to those parts sooner.
5. Overall, what did you think about the book? Even though the story started slowly and there were times I wanted to stop reading it, my Mom encouraged me to keep reading. I’m glad she did, because I ended up really liking the story.
6. Who do you think would like this book? I think girls who like reading about fairies and magic who are 8 years and older will like this book.
Daughter Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: Willow Wood is an intelligent story which brings to life every young girl’s fantasy – that there is a magical world in our backyard filled with fairies, talking animals, and pixies. But underlying this clever story is an important lesson about global warming, pollution, and irreparable damage to the environment. Only what is at stake in Willow Wood is the extinction of the Fairies. Caitlin, as the powerful “The Her”, is tasked with discovering her special skills and reversing the damage caused by the “Bumbles” (i.e., humans) to the local ecosystem.
I LOVED the setting of this book. I grew up in a rural area myself and would spend hours in the forest behind our home (where our horses were roaming) imagining all kinds of possibilities. When Caitlin enters aunt Maeve’s world of “no electronics”, horseback riding, and a huge forest to explore, I felt like I was reading about my life as a child. The only difference is that the fantastical creatures I imagined came to life for Caitlin. I absolutely delighted in escaping into this fictional world.
There is a clear underlying message concerning environmental issues. Early in the book, we learn that aunt Maeve has a “green home” that is supported by solar panels, windmills, and energy-efficient devices. There is discussion of recycling, re-using, and organic farming. The basic premise of the story is that humans/Bumbles are damaging the environment. The fairies provide Caitlin with a list of problems and remedies that really pinpoint specific issues. I think there is so much material a teacher or homeschooling parent could use in their curriculum. Here is an example from the list:
7. Disappearance of Bees
a. More flowers
b. Less poison
c. More trees
d. More land
e. Less noise
I would like to respond to my daughter’s comment about the story taking a long time to get to the “good parts”. The author does spend a significant amount of time setting up the story and provides rich descriptions of aunt Maeve’s house and the surrounding area. From my adult perspective, I felt that it helped me imagine Caitlin’s surroundings. However, I can see how a younger reader would just want the story to move forward especially knowing (from reading the back of the book) that fairies, pixies and other fun things are coming! It’s true what my daughter says – I did have to encourage her to keep reading past the first few chapters. With at least a tween audience, it is important to get that story moving!
I do also have to mention a couple of issues I had with language and violence. While Caitlin does not call her brother an idiot, she “thinks” he is an idiot. So, in her mind, she calls him an idiot. As I’ve discussed in my previous reviews, I know it is a commonly used term, but I prefer that words such as “idiot” do not appear in middle grade books especially when they are being used between siblings. I don’t want the use of the term normalized. Also, there is a scene in the standoff between Caitlin and the farmers where the farmer pulls a gun on Caitlin and threatens her. I was disturbed that guns and threats to use them against a child appeared in a middle grade book. Perhaps it wouldn’t bother everyone, but it did make me uncomfortable.
One final note … I loved the cliffhanger involving Caitlin’s brother Harrison (who only plays a relatively minor role in this story). If Caitlin, as part fairy, is “The Her”, it only follows that Harrison is “The Him”, but what will happen with this powerful duo? I, for one, want to know!
My Bottom Line: I loved escaping into the imaginative, fantasy world of Willow Wood which features a strong female main character, a wonderfully creative and imaginative setting, a tension-filled plotline, and an important underlying message about the importance of caring for the environment. I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it to tween and teen girls in particular who love reading stories featuring fantasy and magic. Ages 9+
* This book was provided to us by the author free-of-charge in exchange for our honest review. The author is also participating in Mother and Daughter’s Book Promotion Services. *
About the Author: Laurie Melrose
Laurie Melrose was born in Santa Cruz, California where, as a child, she divided her time between playing in the surf and riding her horse through rolling hills and forests. Laurie raised her children in Carmel and Auburn where they all enjoyed the natural beauty that California has to offer. With her children grown she moved to the village of Mendocino and discovered a magical world. A real life ship wreck, a beach of sea glass, a miniature forest – all inspired her to share Caitlin’s fantastic adventures with readers. Laurie now lives in Silicon Valley on a small farm with her dachshund and bay gelding.
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