Save the Trees! Fairies, Fracking, and Environmental Fights

Lynn: The bare bones of Emma Carroll’s In Darkling Wood (2017) seem simple enough. Alice’s little brother Theo desperately needs a heart transplant, and the call from the hospital has finally come. Alice goes to stay with Nell, the spiky, strong-willed grandmother Alice doesn’t remember, in a cottage surrounded by ancient forest. Nell hates the forest and announces that she intends to cut it all down. In Darkling Wood by Emma CarrollBut not everyone agrees with Nell, including Alice, who comes to treasure the forest, nor Flo, a new friend Alice meets in the woods.

Flo tells Alice stories of fairies that inhabit the forest and the importance of saving their home. Alice is skeptical at first, but as Theo’s condition worsens, she begins to believe there is connection between the threat to the forest and Theo’s illness. If she can save the forest, will she also save Theo’s life? To this compelling first-person story, Carroll adds additional complexity, interweaving letters from a young girl to her WWI soldier brother and events from a historical controversy involving Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and photographs of fairies. All the threads come skillfully together at the conclusion in a richly rewarding whole.



Cindy: Ooooh, I loved this book and Alice’s struggle to connect with her grandmother, and I’m excited to bring more readers to it. Its many facets will reach a variety of readers, as Lynn says.

I was thrilled to find the Cottlingly fairy hoax in Emma Carroll’s book. We both read the nonfiction book The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure, the Booklist Top of the List Youth Nonfiction title in 2012. We wrote a Bookends post about how a couple of girls pulled off the hoax, convincing Sir Arthur Doyle that they’d seen fairies by using early photographic trickery. It would be a perfect suggestion for readers who liked the fairy element in Carrol’s book.

Those readers drawn to the novel’s threads about dealing with grief or preserving the woods may want to read The End of the Wild (2017) by Nicole Helget. Fern’s family lives near a forest in Michigan, where Fern supplements their meager food supply by foraging for edibles. Her veteran stepfather cares for her and her brothers as best he can while dealing with PTSD and alcoholism. That’s not enough for Fern’s wealthy grandfather, who wants custody of the children so he can provide for them “properly.”

When a fracking operation comes to town, it promises jobs for the unemployed, including Fern’s stepfather, who needs one badly. But it also means the loss of Fern’s beautiful woods to a wastewater pond. Fern gains empowerment and educates her community through a science fair project that teaches her the pros and cons of fracking.  Helget weaves a lot of issues together capably through Fern’s resilient character, one that mirrors so many of our young people living in poverty or in difficult situations. Don’t miss this one—or Fern’s recipes, also included.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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