Author: Matt Haig
Genre: Middle grade, fantasy
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: June 2007
Hardback: 316 pages
Stand alone or series: First in a
How did I get this book: Borrowed from the library
Let’s start with a brief synopsis from Goodreads:
Aunt Eda’s Rule #9: NEVER-UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES- GO INTO THE FOREST.
Samuel and Martha have just moved to Norway to live with their aunt Eda, and she’s taking some getting used to. She has too many rules, no TV, and insists that they eat local delicacies like brown cheese and reindeer soup. And then there’s the most peculiar thing about her-her irrational fear of her own backyard. Sure, Uncle Henrik hasn’t been heard from since he disappeared into it ten years ago, but that can’t be the forest’s fault . . . can it?
Samuel is skeptical, until he disobeys Rule #1-Never go up to the attic-and finds an unusual book: The Creatures of Shadow Forest, which gives scary descriptions of the fantastic creatures supposedly living in the forest. So when Sam starts seeing strange things venture past the treeline after dark, he can’t help wondering . . . could Aunt Eda be right, and what really happened to Uncle Henrik?
What I thought:
Chances are if you follow my blog, you are aware that I kind of (hahaha. Kind of. Yeah, right) LOVE Matt Haig’s The Humans. I also quite enjoyed The Radleys. I’ve been trying to find his other books here in the US, but some of them are a little hard to come by. I found Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest in our library system and immediately checked it out. Just like the other two, I LOVED it.
Matt Haig’s writing style is, well… magical. It is lyrical, full of life and meaning, and completely enchanting. It’s actually pretty conversational and includes two interruptions for the author (I think young kids would like this as it gives them a break and it also tells them what’s coming so they want to keep reading and get to that part – I mean, it worked on me. Ha). The story is full of fascinating humans and creatures alike. The novel felt like it opened its pages and pulled me into them much like the forest does to those who enter it. It didn’t want to let me go (and, honestly, I didn’t want it to anyway). The characters are fully developed and so well-done (just like in his other two books). I loved Aunt Eda especially. On her character: “Aunt Eda had a slight accent that sounded slightly surprised, as if the words had never expected to be used.” Isn’t that an amazing description?
Of course, one of my favorite things was the humor. Matt Haig has an uncanny ability to make me laugh out loud while I read. I think my favorite funny bit was the family of trolls who share only one eye amongst them. It has some dark humor, which I also quite enjoy.
Also, much like his other books that I’ve read, Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest is full of deep feelings. You’d think I’d be used to how much Haig’s books make me feel by now, but I’m not. I always find things I relate to in them in a deep, emotional way that is just wonderful. The story is about Samuel as he goes on a journey to accept the sadness and anger after losing his parents and finding happiness and hope with his new life.
Two favorite quotes:
“Martha Blink, with a universe on every side, to defend herself against all the pain and tears and happiness of the world.” – page 47
“You can find happiness anywhere, son, if you look hard enough.” – page 314
What I want to know is why was the title changed from Shadow Forest (its UK title) to Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest (its US title)? Especially since the forest is always called “Shadow Forest” in the book. So dumb.
You can find out more about Matt Haig on Twitter – I always enjoy seeing what he has to say about life and writing and depression and interacting with him.
The bottom line: This is a wonderful story about moving through some of the most difficult things you can experience which also happens to include some amazing, magical creatures (and two interruptions from the author). Read it. 🙂
Rating: 9 – practically perfect
Reading next: Fables by Bill Willingham