Parents' Guide to

The Otherwoods

By Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Monster-fighting tale stars stellar nonbinary character.

The Otherwoods book cover: A tween with short wavy brown hair, frightened eyes, and a gray cat draped over their neck wears a sweatshirt depicting three monsters standing in a creepy dead forest

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Fans of unlikely heroes, fluffy cats, and monsters will dig into this story of a fearful middle schooler lured to another realm to save their friend. River, who really knows the value of friendship having suffered too long without it, suddenly needs to find bravery within themself for a rescue mission -- after some time curled up on their bed, hyperventilating, wishing it all away. Luckily, Charles, the monster under River's bed, convinces them to take the family cat, Mr. Fluffy Pancakes. First of all, fantastic name, and secondly, no one ever goes wrong with a cat sidekick. With the cat's support and a spirit named Xavier, River begins envisioning themself as brave and a hero.

Why the creepy forest is teeming with monsters out to get River and the magical lore is more simplified than it should be, but in The Otherwoods, the importance of someone like River overcoming these monsters is always understood. When they return to the real world, people like River often need more bravery than most kids, proven in this story by River's run-in with a difficult teacher. Justine Pucella Winans dedication makes the message even clearer: "To all the queer kids reading this, whether you are slaying monsters or hiding under covers, you are heroes and you are magic." This book will be magic to kids who really need to hear that.

Book Details

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