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The Animals of Farthing Wood Colin Dann

Sad Smiles 2 What is wrong with this book?
Surprised Sharky 2 Uh. Smiles. You maybe want to calm down?
Sad Smiles NO. What is WRONG with this book?!
Surprised Sharky … right, well while you try to process what is wrong with this book, maybe you want to introduce it to our readers?
intent-smiles
Default Sharky Alright then, I guess it’s me. Imagine you’re an animal. Any random animal, it doesn’t really matter. Your current happy forest life is being threatened by human development, and more urgently, a dreadful drought. Luckily, you hear of a nature reserve you could travel to, to escape the impending destruction of your home. It’ll be a long and hard journey, but the animals are willing to risk it. You all recite an Oath that you will all look after the best interests of the group, which includes the predators not eating the prey animals of the group. And so you all set off.
Shocked Smiles It sounds very nice and hopeful but it isn’t. Well, it’s definitely a good journey story. Since the animals have to stay together, that means walking at the pace of the slowest animals, which means they can’t cover much ground at once. And then they have to try and find food for everyone. There’s a lot of problems in trying to keep such a diverse group fed and together, and it’s actually pretty great that the story takes that into account. And I did like the swimming pool scene. They sneak into a developed area to drink from a swimming pool, since it’s the nearest source of water they can find, and they have moonlit drinks and swims and Adder the snake gets dropped in by accident and it’s very funny.
Happy Sharky2 Adder in general is one of the highlights of the book. He’s mostly nasty and sarcastic and he’s very fun to read.
Sad Smiles 2 The land gets harder the further they go, of course. They deal with a fire, a storm, farmland, a fox hunt, a motorway… ugh.
Default Sharky … yeah, there’s no way around it. Animals die. And the deaths are brutal and sudden. I’ve heard of people reading this when they were kids, but Smiles isn’t a kid anymore and he’s still traumatised.
Surprised Smiles Yeah. It’s a good story but I personally wouldn’t recommend it for kids. When they’re a bit older maybe. The animals also get drunk at one point which is weird and out of the blue because what?
Happy Sharky2 That being said, the parts that are worth reading really are worth reading. The dynamics between the animals, how they’re struggling to stay together as a group even after all they’ve been through, following an animal who they have to trust still remembers the way to safety. The tension of the journey and the hardships, which make the moments of safety so much better. The strangeness that exists between wild animals that are threatened by humans and domestic animals that are loved by humans. There’s  lot to unpack, and it’s definitely good stuff to read and think about. But I’d agree maybe most of it would hit best with an older readers.
Sad Smiles Also DEATH.
Default Sharky Also death. We mentioned this in the previous review but stories with animal protagonists get away with so much. And most of them are still children’s books. I can tell you right now that if a human died in just one of the ways the animals die in this book, people would be up in arms and nobody would let a kid touch it.
Surprised Smiles Fun story, our first experience with the story was when we were kids, but it was some abridged version based on the tv show. I’m pretty sure one of the worst deaths wasn’t in that book, neither was the getting drunk, but I think they added a death that wasn’t in the original? Weird stuff. But yeah, the adaptation wasn’t that brutal in that respect. I remember really enjoying the camaraderie between the animals and wanting really hard for them to succeed.
Default Sharky We only read the original just now. I guess the extra trauma comes from not realising how much… more it would be.
Default Smiles I’m glad Adder was just as much of a jerk as in the adaptation, though. He’s so fun. He constantly threatens to eat the smaller animals even though he promised not to. And he joins the journey half because of the safety of the park, but half because he heard there’s really delicious frogs living there. But despite all that he has some very genuinely brave moments. But if anyone brings them up he feels so uncomfortable that he acts extra spiteful to make for it.

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Happy Sharky2 There’s definitely a couple of stand-out characters, one of them being a companion they pick up along the way, that make for an enjoyable read no matter what else is happening. I definitely went back a few times to reread bits where animals are wonderfully snarky with each other. Even the narration gets a little sarcastic at one tiny point, and it was worth it.
Default Smiles The story is a little light on the ‘animal culture’ aspect, but in a good way. This isn’t a story that needs to be steeped in unique animal culture. It’s about the journey and the struggle and the bonds made along the way. That being said, there’s a fun little section where different animals recite something from their species, and even if we never directly hear it we get a nice idea of the kind of story or sound it is. Which is a nice little touch, and a pretty neat way to end a journey.

 

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