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Beyond the Deepwoods: Edge Chronicles #1    by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell order for
Beyond the Deepwoods
by Paul Stewart
Order:  USA  Can
David Fickling Books, 2004 (1998)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In Beyond the Deepwoods, Chris Riddell's magnificent illustrations are strategically placed to match the progression and descriptions of Paul Stewart's story. It's an enchanting fantasy, with incredible creatures in a world where rocks float and sky pirates ride above the earth and under the moon.

A young boy named Twig was abandoned as a baby at the door of a tree cabin, and raised by Woodtrolls Tuntum and Spelda Snatchwood. Twig often gets into fights for being noticeably different. Upon arriving home beaten and bruised, Twig longs for Tuntum to wrap him in a hug. Instead, Tuntum admonishes Twig while 'Mother-Mine' Spelda eases his wounds with salve. Spelda comforts him by explaining that Tuntum only wants to prepare Twig for the harshness and dangers of the world beyond home. Woodtrolls' deepest terror is of being lost, straying from the 'path'. Going into the dark woods, they tether to the 'anchor tree', to find the way back home. The Deepwoods are home to slaughterers, gyle goblins, trogs, tribes of termagrant frogs, and flesh-eating trees.

When Twig 'comes of age', Mother-Mine tells him the truth. He is not a Woodtroll, and it is time for Twig to leave the Snatchwood home. 'Stay on the path', she warns Twig. By mistake, Twig wanders from it and is lost. Hearing a cry for help, he comes to the aide of an injured boy named Gristle, assisting his new friend back to his family. The slaughterers' homes are squat huts, with very large hammocks for sleeping high above the ground. They sleep during the day, and go about their 'daily' lives at night. Desiring to find his true identity and destiny, Twig sees 'himself as a sky pirate standing at the prow of a pirate ship, with the moon above and the wind in his hair, sailing across the sky.' Continuing his journey, Twig is befriended by the wise Caterbird, who tells him 'whenever you need me, I'll be there'.

The story's expressive sounds are delightful, whether in falling, or sinking in honey or mud - 'PLATTSH', 'plop', 'youch' and 'Eeeeyuk.. It's sour!' Twig describes his experience in a honey pot, 'Drowndead or devoured. What a choice!' Caution must be exercised not to fall into the hands of the horrible 'Gloamglozer', whose presence haunts all the inhabitants of 'The Edge'. And when a 'Banderbear' gives a hug, it is a HUG! While Riddell speaks to imagery, Stewart speaks to the imagination, and both speak to the heart with joy and sorrows, danger and bravery. While eating a fruit, Twig says 'Scrumptious!', just as the reader will say while devouring Beyond the Deepwoods.

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