Grimwood

Authored by Nadia Shereen
Illustrated by Nadia Shereen
Published by Simon & Schuster Ltd

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Ted, the young fox, and his sister Nancy live in a city. Ted doesn’t remember his parents but Nancy is like a parent, protective (and bossy) but because she knows the dangers of city life, she doesn’t let Ted roam, keeping him at home in their den unless she is supervising, so Ted is lonely. The bins behind the Speedy Chicken shop are a favourite spot for foraging for food but this is a danger area because it is the domain of the aggressive and downright nasty cat, Princess Buttons. One fateful day Ted creeps to the bins and sinks his teeth into a delicious hot dog bun, but as he does so there is a terrific yowling sound: Ted has accidentally bitten off Princess Buttons’ tail which she had trailed inside the bun as she scavenged in the bin. She and her cat posse swear revenge and Ted and Nancy have to escape to Grimwood.

When they reach the wood they meet all sorts of animals: squirrels, whose main leisure activity is a game called tree bonking which involves flying through the air and just bouncing off the trees; Pamela, the somewhat deranged eagle, who steals Nancy’s phone; Titus the stag, who becomes their kindly guide and mentor; Frank, the owl, the main communications director of the wood; Willow the rabbit, who becomes Ted’s best friend; Wiggy and his badger friends who drive manically around the wood in a huge open-topped car and Ingrid the  duck, the director of the Grimwood Players – the wood’s drama group.  While Ted loves the open air and the smells and delights of the wood, Nancy is not happy. She mistrusts the other animals and tries to stop Ted venturing far, and she is certainly opposed to him becoming the star actor in the Grimwood Players’ Big Show, but gradually, after a series of adventures and a big battle with the cats, she comes to appreciate the friendship of the animals and recognise Grimwood as their new home.

It’s clear from the list of characters that this is a story packed with zany ideas. Nadia Shireen writes with an energy that whisks readers through a series of mad adventures and encounters, wittily told. The story itself is absorbing and raises a smile on every page (and often more than one!) and her illustrations of the characters and their predicaments and occasional interspersed comments by Eric Dynamite, a woodlouse, add to the harum-scarum atmosphere. But there’s more to this book than its deliciously funny set-ups and near-catastrophes: moments of melancholy when Ted writes letters to his parents, asking when they will return, and when he reflects on how lonely he feels sometimes. Adult readers, and no doubt some younger readers, can guess what might have happened to Ted’s parents, and his innocence makes the letters all the more poignant. Most of all, however, this is a crazily uplifting story of defeating evil with the help of brave and resourceful friends, finding a home and, for Ted, finding the thing he wants to do most – acting – alongside the friend he always wanted, Willow the fluffy rabbit. This will be a treat to read with children from age seven upwards, or for their individual reading, although the humour definitely cries out to be shared.

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