With The Children’s Forest, a beautiful book – co-authored by Dawn Casey, Anna Richardson and Helen Ascoli – Hawthorn Press have scaled fresh heights in its vocation to put inspiring storytelling resources into our hands. There is a practical aim at work in providing ‘stories and songs, wild food, crafts and celebrations all year round’, paired with visual and verbal excellence.
The seasonal resources offered are closely connected with Britain’s ancient Celtic festivals. This gives an authentic beating heart to the whole venture, and it is expressed through finely articulated seasonal tales drawing on Celtic and other traditions. These ground the invaluable activities, which include illuminating depictions of flora and fauna. Although the main focus is on woodlands, many of these resources will work in any setting where there are possibilities of connecting with nature.
Alongside the three authors, there are illustration credits for Allmut ffrench, with design and layout by Lucy Guenot. These artists have magnificently enhanced the whole with colourful and engaging work. The result deserves special mention in the annals of book design.
There are also carefully crafted songs and music with a number of musicians named in support of the authors. These work well, though I feel that a few more traditional songs would be welcome in the mix, paralleling the pattern of the stories. However, teachers, parents and storytellers can add to the patterns and resources provided according to local circumstances.
The Children’s Forest is an inspirational work that more than merits its £28.99 price tag – ISBN 978-1-907359-91-0. There is so much here to enjoy and apply. And in the words of Clare Dubois, quoted on the cover, ‘What greater gift could you give to your children than to help them fall back in love with the forest?’ Indeed, but let’s include the grownups in that gifting as well.
Donald Smith, Scottish International Storytelling Festival