Ah, this year has been busy, I realized I never posted the great reviews for The Woods that I received from Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal. And that might just seem ungrateful! But nothing could be further from the truth. To have my book reviewed by them is already an accomplishment, let alone getting such kind words from them. So, without further ado, but with many thanks to these publications and reviewers, here they are:
The night light is on and the bedtime story firmly in the young narrator's grasp, but stuffed bunny is nowhere to be found! There's only one thing to do: He has to go into the woods, which are conveniently right next to his bedroom.
With a toy sword and a wastebasket serving as a helmet, he marches (in his pajamas) boldly ahead, right into the path of "a big, scary brown bear!" Luckily, the bear is scared of the dark too, so the boy shares his night light. The duo sets off into the deeper woods, where they meet two scary giants. These guys in green are just bored, so the boy shares his bedtime story with them. Off this quartet ventures, and comes upon a pink three-headed, fire-breathing dragon... And so on. The procession comes to a big scary dark cave and, holding hands, summon the courage to enter. Inside is a big, hairy, scary monster—holding a tiny red bunny! Mystery solved; the boy invites everyone back to his room, where a final illustration shows him smiling and clutching stuffed versions of all his banished fears. The refrain—"we weren't afraid at all. Until…"—sets a comfortable pattern, and the fuzzy watercolors on thick creamy stock enhance the coziness of the tale.
Hoppe's delightfully quirky monsters enhance this pleasant tonic for bedtime fears.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1–Pen and soft-hued watercolor illustrations admirably relate the tale of a young boy settling down to sleep. His evening routine is disrupted when he goes to hug his toy bunny but it is nowhere to be found. The child decides there is only one place it might be: the Woods. So, armed with a cape, a sword, a bucket on his head, his book, and a nightlight hung around his neck, the child ventures forth to find his stuffed animal. On his quest, he meets a bear, two pirates, a three-headed dragon, etc., but, though afraid at first, he soon discovers that the various characters aren’t really frightening; they just need something the boy can share to appease them.
The refrain “And we weren’t afraid at all. Until… we ran into…” is repeated several times throughout the adventure, making this an entertaining selection. Readers looking for bedtime stories or tales involving sharing, bravery, or overcoming fear of the dark will be pleased with this endearing tale.–Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI
"[L]ast night, I couldn't find my bunny anywhere!" a pajama-clad boy tells readers, looking out at them from under the covers. "There was only one place left to look." The page turns: "I had to go into the woods." Armed with his nightlight, a sword, and a helmet (his wastebasket), he meets a "BIG, SCARY BROWN BEAR" ("But the bear was just afraid of the dark. So I shared my night-light with him"), "TWO SCARY GIANTS" ("But the giants were just bored. So I shared my bedtime story with them"), and other intimidating creatures, which he befriends before getting his bunny back.
In Hoppe's (Hat) jewel-colored pen-and-watercolor spreads, the monsters leer, gawp, and taunt, giving the boy a scare (readers, too, probably), though he always recovers gracefully. The creatures are eventually revealed to be the boy's own stuffed animals, seen scattered on his bedroom floor. Between the lines, Hoppe delivers some wisdom about the vulnerability inside every bully, and his witty artwork (the bear wears a blingy necklace that says "Honey") underscores the welcome bedtime message that there's nothing to be afraid of. Ages 4–8.