The Beast of Hushing Wood
192pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99
For the close-knit residents of Dell Hollow, Hushing Wood is dark and sinister but for nearly-12 year old Ziggy it wraps itself around the town like a sleeping cat, protecting it from the outside world – not that there are any towns or villages anywhere nearby Lately though, since her dad left because no matter how long they live there, “foreigners” are still outsiders, its reputation seems to be coming true as strange things seem to be happening, not the least of which is the recurring nightmare that Ziggy has that has convinced her she is going to drown on her 12th birthday. A place that has offered her solace and comfort now seems menacing and unfamiliar.
So when Raffi Tazi begins at the school, the first new student there ever, not only is he an outsider but he has black wavy hair and skin the colour of burned butter, very different from the Dell Hollow norm of fair skin and light hair. And instead of wearing his shirt tucked into his belted pants, he wears a loose white cotton shirt that hangs over baggy trousers. Fodder indeed for the narrow minds of the town, particularly class bully Harry Arnold. So is he friend or foe? How does his arrival coincide with the strange happenings and appearances that Ziggy experiences?
A mixture of mystery, magic, and adventure this is an imaginative tale that will appeal to independent upper primary readers who are starting to be aware of themselves and their place in the world and perhaps experiencing a little insecurity at the changes happening within and without. Even Grandpa who has been Ziggy’s rock for so long can not help as he is sliding into dementia and although there is a hint that Hushing Wood used to be different, his memories are muddled and so Ziggy must find her own path to understanding and acceptance .
An intriguing read that will resonate long after the last page is read.