This is a beautifully told story about overcoming fear using empathy and imagination. The storyline is very minimalistic, and wonderfully supported by the illustrations which tell a story of their own which runs parallel to the text, making this a very powerful and moving tale.
The beginning of the story shows us a very unhappy Peter, being driven by his dad in a laden car through a dark wood. The left side page is completely grey. The next double page shows the car in colour as it passes through the scary wood; again, grey is the dominant colour for the whole wood. The car passes over a bridge, and comes to stop at a house. There are still traces of grey here, but Peter’s dog, Harold, is shown in a warm orange colour.
At night, the boy and the dog look out of the window of their house and see the bridge and the scary wood beyond. They both know terrible things live in the woods. Next day Peter creates the figure of Lenny out of pillows and cushions, dresses him, and sets him down at the entrance to the bridge as the guardian. Lenny will keep “the dark woods on the other side where they belong.”
The next night, Peter and Harold look out the window to see Lenny, and are struck by the idea that he is lonely. Next day, Peter proceeds to make another figure, dresses her, and presents Lucy to Lenny. The following night, the boy and his dog, looking out of the window at the grey, snowy landscape, see Lenny and Lucy watching vigilantly. “Everyone slept”.
Next door, there is a girl called Millie who shows Peter an owl. On the opposite page with no text, we see Millie’s mum taking a cake and coffee to Peter’s Dad. The final double spread page is all white, other than the characters of Lenny, Lucy, Peter, Harold and Millie, who are shown in colour.
This beautifully understated story allows children just enough information to understand the fear and problems that are presented to Peter. The reader is then shown a proactive boy who comes up with a solution to his fears. Peter’s relationship with his dog is loving, his empathy for lonely Lenny, very important.
The combination of text and illustrations is superb and the story is told in the most gentle of ways.
|Author||Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead|
|Publisher||Allen & Unwin Childrens|
|Distributor||Allen & Unwin|