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Into the Forest

Author: Anthony Browne

Publishers: Walker Books

First Published: 2004

ISBN: 978-84428-599-4

Dad was gone and Mum didn’t seem to know when he’d be back. Mum asked me to take a cake to Grandma, who was poorly. She told me to go the long way round, but I wanted to be home in case Dad came back. So, instead, I chose the forbidden path into the forest...

“An extraordinary text... Browne excels himself.” The Observer

Written in first person (from the perspective of a child) I have used this picture book with my Year 6 class to help them develop important inference skills and examine how a story may contain messages that resonate beyond the pages long after the book has been put down.

As is often the case with Anthony Brown books, looking at the illustrations more closely (and discussing their possible meaning) helps children understand that there may be implicit messages and underlining themes to a story that aren’t necessarily made explicit.

Such subtle ideas helped my learners think deeply about the characters themselves and helped them to identify with the situation they found themselves in.

It is important to note, however, that this was achieved only after a second reading so that learners could begin to ‘read between the lines’ both of the written text and the lines that had been drawn in terms of the illustrations.

In essence, this book examines how real life is often quite different to the fairy tale ‘happy ever after’ ending we are told when we are young.

Of all the picture books I read to my Year 6 class, it was this one they seemed to identify with the most, no doubt because of the links they could make with fairy tales they were already familiar with.

If I had to sum up this book in a single word, then that word would simply be...beautiful.

Questions to Consider:

  • Look at the title. What does it remind you of? Why?

  • Look at the front cover. Were you correct? What else do you notice?

  • What ‘sound’ do you think the child was woken up by? How is this represented in the picture?

  • Why do you think this ‘sound’ happened at night and while the child was upstairs in bed?

  • How do we know mum is sad?

  • How does the picture help show the sense of emptiness mum feels? Why do you think the child has had breakfast but mum hasn’t?

  • Why do you think the child writes so many notes and puts them around the house? What does this tell us about his character and how he feels towards ‘Dad’? How is this backed up by the child’s decision to go through the forest?

  • Who does the boy with the cow remind you of? Why?

  • Can you spot anything in the two pictures that supports your idea?

  • Who does the girl with the golden hair remind you of?

  • Can you spot anything in the two pictures that supports your idea?

  • Who do you think the two lost children?

  • Can you spot anything in the two pictures that supports your idea?

  • What does the red coat the child puts on remind you of?

  • Can you spot any more fairy tale imagery in the picture that follows?

  • Why did Grandma’s voice sound so strange? Is there any evidence for this later in the book?

  • Why did the child creep in to Grandma’s house?

  • Why is ‘Dad’ always spelt with a capital ‘D’ and, at one point, is written in full capitals?

Once Read:

  • What colour is Mum’s cardigan? Why do you think this colour was chosen? Is this idea reflected on any other pages of the book, both within the story and outside it?

  • Look again at the first picture. What do you think the storm symbolises? Why?

  • What toy do you notice on the floor? What is strange about this toy?

  • What might this infer about Dad’s previous job? What might it infer about why Dad is home and how he might be feeling?

  • What do you think Mum and Dad’s argument might have been about?

  • Why do you think Dad left to live with Grandma but later returns?

  • How do fairy tales always end?

  • Do you think this modern fairy tail is trying to tell us that this is not the case? Why? Why not?

  • Look at the other characters the child meets on the way to Grandma’s house. How might their situation reaffirm the overall message of this book?

  • Why do you the child does not help any of them? Were they right to act in this way? Would you have acted in the same way? Why? Why not?

  • Look at how the book is coloured. Why do you think the forest is black and white but the child and his family situation is in colour?

  • What do you think the darkness and the forest represent?

  • Why do you think once the reader is inside Grandma’s house the illustrations are all in colour?

  • Why do you think Grandma’s house is illuminated in yellow like the sun?

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