written and illustrated by Paul Hoppe
2011 (Chronicle Books)
Source: Mebane Public Library
A young boy is ready to turn in for the night. He goes through his normal routine when he discovers that his bunny is missing. This calls for a trip to the woods. These woods are directly connected to his bedroom which is very convenient. Not too far into the journey he meets a scary brown bear. Except this bear is not scary but instead scared. He is afraid of the dark so our narrator offers his nightlight for relief. This party of two continues until they meet two scary giants. Seems the giants are not scary either. They are just bored and in need of a bedtime story, which is quickly provided. The next creature met along the way is a three headed fire-breathing dragon who is not interested in providing a fright but rather needs help with a stomachache. Our kind narrator provides a hug which is just the tonic needed. Afterwards, a trip to a big dark cave yields the bunny and a surprise ending.
The Woods is a terrific option for a bedtime story. The lead character helps others face their fears with solutions for various nighttime needs. This is a clever text which provides opportunities for rich discussions about being afraid and how we deal with these feelings. It would be interesting to see if children put two and two together to see that the boy is giving each creature something he uses at night to help himself go to sleep. Paul Hoppe's watercolor illustrations have a classic look that remind me of early 20th century Sunday comics. The Woods would be an excellent choice for a read aloud in a preschool or kindergarten class.
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