A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Under Wildwood is set in the environs of Portland, Ore., but the real-life area is treated as a fantasy land, featuring an Impassable Wilderness full of talking animals and wild magic.
Under Wildwood emphasizes bravery, loyalty, and resourcefulness and features young characters who risk everything to protect each other and the magical Woods.
Positive Role Models
Prue, Curtis, Rachel, and Elsie each find themselves in situations where they must put aside their own immediate concerns and fight to save others. Some of the dangers they face are fantastic -- a shape-shifting assassin, a battle in a city of moles -- but they also struggle with more mundane conflicts about loyalty and family.
Violence & Scariness
Under Wildwood features a small amount of violence, which is usually described with a light touch and little graphic detail. Children battle wild animals, supernatural threats, and muscle-bound adults. Two older characters are victims of mutilation -- one had both hands cut off, one was blinded. An evil orphanage burns down.
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Under Wildwood contains only some very minor cursing -- a couple of instances of "damned" or "damnedest."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Under Wildwood is the sequel to 2011's Wildwood, by Colin Meloy (lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the folk-rock band the Decemberists), and picks up the fanciful story without missing a beat. Young children are sent to an awful orphanage and forced to work in a factory, a lead character fights a supernatural assassin, children battle wild animals and muscle-bound adults, and two minor characters were physically mutilated before this story begins -- one had both hands cut off, one was blinded. But the level of danger in the story never rises to a point likely to upset anyone other than the most sensitive readers. And there's only minor cursing: a couple of instances of "damned" or "damnedest."
Is It Any Good?
UNDER WILDWOOD is an inventive fantasy adventure that recaptures some, but not all, of the magic of its predecessor. Author Colin Meloy and illustrator Carson Ellis continue to emphasize the sly humor and generous spirit of the narrative. The action is split roughly in two, alternating between returning characters Prue and Curtis and new additions Elsie and Rachel. Unfortunately, the Prue and Curtis sections feel repetitive, while the Elsie and Rachel portions get bogged down in an unpleasant and not terribly gripping scenario. Things pick up as the two groups stumble toward each other, but Under Wildwood feels very much like the muddled middle volume of a trilogy.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.