The Magic Faraway Tree: A New Adventure
Hodder Children’s, 2022
285pp., hbk., RRP $A35.00
2856pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99
Seventy-plus years ago, the stories of Enid Blyton were the core of the young child’s reading diet. A trip in the magic wishing chair or a visit to a land through the mysterious cloud above a huge tree were a much-anticipated part of the bedtime routine introducing us to the fantasy genre and leading us on to read series like The Famous Five and The Secret Seven or any other of her 700 books and 2000 short stories for ourselves.
Such were the memories made that that generation went on to share her work with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and some, like me, went on to become teachers and shared them with a new class of fans every year for 50 years!!! So to discover that Jacqueline Wilson had been given permission to weave new adventures among the branches of the Faraway Tree so new, modern readers can share the magic and mystery made this high on my list of review requests. And I’ve had my nose in it all afternoon not only meeting the new and familiar characters like Silky, Moonface, the Saucepan Man and Dame Washalot among others but recalling my own introduction to them all those years ago and the joy and wonder I’ve brought to children over the years when I have shared them.
In this new adventure, Milo, Mia and Birdy are on a countryside holiday when they wander into an Enchanted Wood and following a rabbit who can speak to them through the thick forest with its mysterious whispering leaves, discover a beautiful tree that stands high above the rest. The Magic Faraway Tree is home to many remarkable creatures including a fairy called Silky, her best friend Moonface and more. Little Birdy is only too happy to find that fairies are real. Even her older brother and sister are soon won over by the magic of the Faraway Tree and the extraordinary places they discover above it.
Keeping true to the original concept, including the writing style, this is both a nostalgic visit to past pleasures as well as the gateway to reading the entire series which remains in print. IMO, this is one of the best series to introduce young readers to reading novels because each chapter is pretty much complete in itself making it ideal for a both a read-aloud session and a read-alone session, yet there is the continuity of both the storyline and the characters to be able to pick it up and set it down without having to orient yourself to a whole new read. While there is drama in each chapter . the plot remains straightforward so there are not too many twists and turns to confuse the novice reader.
My well-thumbed, well-read 1971 editions of the series have pride of place on my bookshelf, and this new adventure will be sitting there with them too, ready for when my grandchildren are ready to read it to theirs. Hachette, the publishers, kindly sent me a hardcover version but it is also available in paperback at a more accessible price so more generations can lose themselves in the magic.