Reviews /

The Twig Man

Authored by Sana Rasoul
Illustrated by Alexandra Artigas
Published by Hashtag Press

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The Twig Man is a debut middle-grade novel by Sana Rasoul and it’s not one you will forget in a hurry! This spooky, mysterious novel is perfect for Years 5, 6, 7 and 8. It’s accessible language yet mature story line will grip young teens from the first page to the last. Included in the longlist for The UKLA Book Awards for 2024, this haunting story will delight young readers who love that ‘jumpy’ feeling of a good chilling story.

The book centres around Ari who lives with his overprotective parents near the edge of a wood. We quickly learn that Ari had an older sister (Lana) who went missing a year ago; everyone believes she has run away… apart from Ari. He knows that something has happened to Lana and is determined to find out the truth and bring her home. Local legend is that there is a Twig Man who lives in the wood near Ari’s home. The Twig Man supposedly kidnaps a child about every ten years and Ari believes the Twig Man holds the secret to his sister’s whereabouts.

We’ve all heard about spooky woods and have second-guessed ourselves when we hear eerie twigs snapping or strange noises. Ari is no different. When he finds himself in the wood, eyes and ears seem to surround him and the woodland seems to encircle him. Ari also meets Timmy, a friend who seems to appear from nowhere, and the pair set off on a mission to find the Twig Man, but things are not quite as they seem. The friendship comes with ups and downs – is Timmy is exactly who he claims to be? And will the boys be able to survive the threats of Twig Man and bring Lana back home?

The Twig Man has themes of trust, family, friendship and risk-taking. It feels thoroughly modern and Ari’s thought processes and behaviours are typical for boys of his age in my opinion. This makes reading the book both believable and relatable. Furthermore, I like the way Ari’s family are from a Kurdish background and there are smatterings of Kurdish (with a glossary) throughout the story. Great representation of a language and culture which is not often seen in children’s books.

Sana Rasoul does a brilliant job of giving her readers goosebumps, just as the hairs simultaneously stand up on Ari’s neck. Her vivid description will make you look over your shoulder and I believe some Year 5 and 6 children may struggle with the spookiness of the story – careful choices of who reads this book in a primary school might be advised. However, for lovers of Phil Hickes or Jennifer Killick, The Twig Man is one not to be missed! Are you brave enough to venture into the woods?

Longlisted for the UKLA 2024 Book Awards 7-10 Category