A Clattering Beneath the Woods by Sally J Hubbard

Illustrated by Ian Pethers.

Published by Blue Poppy Publishing, 2020.

A Clattering Beneath the Woods is a terrific story which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s set in the Tamar Valley in Cornwall. 12-year-old Polly and her parents live in a house in the woods. However, the family are having financial difficulties and it looks likely that they will have to move. Either that or stay in the house but sell the wood to a mining company.

Polly is desperate to save her beloved wood. Her plight soon becomes caught up with that of another family, the Tremellins. Polly meets their eldest son, Efrem, by accident when she’s in the woods one day. However, the Tremellins are no ordinary family. They are a secretive and subterranean people. With their traditional ways and old-fashioned clothes, they seem to belong to another time. They also have a most unusual occupation: treacle mining. However, their livelihood and home is under threat and they too might have to leave the woods. Polly and Efrem soon become friends. They live in two very different worlds yet their fates are linked; both want to protect the wood.

The book is beautifully written with wonderful descriptions of the woods and the natural world. I was transported there in my mind and the place seemed almost magical. I think my absolute favourite description was of the secret harbour. Sally described it so vividly that I could picture it very clearly: the jetties, the moorings, the barrels and the coiled ropes, and – best of all – the tiny house, partly built into the stone wall.

I especially loved the secret underground world – the home beneath the tree and the community of people going about their lives hidden from the world above. The descriptions of homes among the tree roots and characters foraging for food in the forest reminded me of two much-loved books from my childhood: Wind in the Willows and the Brambly Hedge series.

Throughout the book there are important themes of mindfulness and nature – often running parallel with each other. Polly takes time to stop and notice her surroundings; she finds peace and takes comfort in the natural world. There are also important messages about conservation and the threat of habitat destruction.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 9+

Thank you to the author for sending me this book to review.

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