“ Genre: Junior Books / Author: Jill Barkin „
If there's any children's fiction that should have been a classic and has somehow been overlooked, then Brambley Hedge is it. Everyone knows Pooh Bear and Peter Rabbit, but the mice in brambly hedge have been sadly under exposed. Not only are the tales charming, but the illustrations are lovely. There are four books in the original set (yes, I have the original,)and each book deals with a season of the year. The unfolding story is influenced by the time of year, and filled with details about the weather, the state of the hedgerow and the like. In the summer tiny bottles are floated in the stream to keep them cool, in Autumn, the mice must carefully make their stores for the winter. The details are delightful. The stories themselves are simple - young mice getting lost, a wedding, that sort of thing. All very accessible to young readers, and very sweet. I have mixed feelings about anthorpomorphism in literature - children certainly do respond to animals who seem a lot like them, who wear clothes and talk, but this often create a wholely unrealistic sense of how the world is. Most creatures are nothing like us, have different needs and wants. i've seen too many children be inadvertantly cruel to animals because they don't understand this. Brambley Hedge strikes a reasonable balance - the mice do live in their natural environment and are influenced by it. There are field mice who have a home in a little ball, just as fieldmice do, weaving the stalks together to make a nest. The mice wear clothes, they get married, have fires and that sort of thing - plenty of human stuff, but all rather old worldy. Issues like being eaten by weasils are present as well, which is good. The mice live in tunnels, they gather food from the hedgrow and in this they are much like mice. Its a good mix of the human and the realistic. Best of all is the quality of illustrations. the art work in these books is wonderful, finely detailed and will make an
yone want to go and look closely at a hedgerow. Our hedgerows are an amazing habitat for all sorts of small creatures, and these books really convey that notion. Children reading them will be more inclined to care about the countryside, and may well want to look at some actual nature books, to learn more about the little mice they will have been enchanted by. ( a good thing indeed, as far as i am concerned.) I have some very happy memories of reading these lovely tales as a child, and I would strongly recomend them to anyone whose children are of the quiet thoughtful persuasion. They are sitable for reading to younger children, and probably would go nicely before "The Wind in the Willows."
Bedtime, and my three and a half year old son is stalling for time again. Not that I mind because his chief method of doing this is to ask for a story, and he always asks for Brambly Hedge. What a treat (I mean for me!) This book is a gift for parents who like to read to their children at bedtime. The stories are gentle depictions of the lives of a number of mice who live in the hedgerow. There are no karate chopping mutated superheros and no talking trains/cars/helicopters. Bliss! This collection contains about eight stories with an introduction from the author, Jill Barkin, explaining how the various characters came about. They are all very distinct and well drawn, from mischievous but good hearted little Wilfred, to wise old Mr Apple. The adventures themselves are very gentle but compelling, just enough to keep little minds interested without over exciting them! I think the main strength of these stories lies in the atmosphere they create, a safe cosy little world of roaring fires and toasted teacakes - just right for snuggly bedtimes. There is nothing threatening or offensive - no baddies in Brambley Hedge - and the tales always leave you smiling. A major contribution to this atmosphere is the illustrations, which are incredibly intricate detailed depictions of the mice's homes in the hedgerow. These are what make the stories so interesting for the parent reading too! As I said, this book is the firm favourite with my son, he can even recite some parts of Winter Story back to me. I would recommend it to any parent with children aged three and upwards. Snuggle down and enjoy!
In this collection, the mice have many adventures, but they always have time for fun and relaxation too. Whatever the season, and whether they are by the sea, in the High Hills, or simply at home by the fire, there is always someone ready to lend a helping hand.