There are a lot of familiar elements here. Children who are outsiders, parents who are absent even when they are present, a journey into the woods, etc.. Still, what lifts this book beyond the familiar is the writing. Ursu gently massages sentences, particularly syntax, so you feel like you are being carried both inside the head of her protagonist, the adopted Hazel, and along on her journey into the woods. I use that phrase – into the woods – deliberately because of Sondheim’s line from the musical — “Anything can happen in the woods” — is very true in this book. Sondheim’s line also connotes both the promise and the threat of Hazel’s journey. Anything can and does happen in these woods, woods that are familiar territory for children’s literature, but Ursu makes them fresh again.

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