Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Cottage in the Woods

by Katherine Coville

Squeeeeee! I sometimes feel silly when I find myself rooting for a happy ending, but this book for middle-schoolers had me anxiously hopeful and, finally, grinning ear to ear. Good wins! Acceptance, tolerance, and friendship rule! Love wins!

Anyway... This book is pretty weird but also fantastic. A twist on the story of Goldilocks told from the point of view of a young she-bear governess, with elements of Victorian/Regency romance and tons more fairy tale references. The language and styling are spot-on without being overwrought or distracting, and excitement comes in the form of both danger and romance, while a subplot promotes social values and diversity. My only complaint is the lack of illustrations (other than the book cover); too many would have made the book babyish, but some of the more colorful characters were begging to be sketched.

I'm not sure at what age girls start reading Jane Austen, so I'm a little unclear on the target audience. The book, with its mix of animal and human characters, is certainly kid friendly, even if there are some slightly scary bits, but I don't know how much the love interest and historical social setting would appeal to pre-tween readers. Meanwhile, the book has plenty for adults to enjoy. But I could also see a precocious 2nd or 3rd grader loving it.

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