Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Cress Watercress by Gregory Maguire!

 Today, we're celebrating a book birthday! I take any excuse I can to celebrate because we have enough things in life, which bring us down at it is. See the cute bunny on this cover? Notice who the author is? And to top it off, there are illustrations! This one is about the coming-of-age of a rabbit as his family moves from danger and into a new place, where things aren't always easy, either. Since it sounds promising to me...and I'm feeling Wind in the Willow vibes...let's take a peek!

by Gregory Maguire
Illustrated by David Litchfield
Candlewick Press
Middle Grade Fantasy
224 pages
ages 8 to 12

A lavishly illustrated woodland tale with a classic sensibility and modern flair—from the fertile imagination behind Wicked.

Gregory Maguire turns his trademark wit and wisdom to an animal adventure about growing up, moving on, and finding community. When Papa doesn't return from a nocturnal honey-gathering expedition, Cress holds out hope, but her mother assumes the worst. It’s a dangerous world for rabbits, after all. Mama moves what’s left of the Watercress family to the basement unit of the Broken Arms, a run-down apartment oak with a suspect owl landlord, a nosy mouse super, a rowdy family of squirrels, and a pair of songbirds who broadcast everyone’s business. Can a dead tree full of annoying neighbors, and no Papa, ever be home? In the timeless spirit of E. B. White and The Wind and the Willows—yet thoroughly of its time—this read-aloud and read-alone gem for animal lovers of all ages features an unforgettable cast that leaps off the page in glowing illustrations by David Litchfield. This tender meditation on coming-of-age invites us to flourish wherever we find ourselves.



Friendship, family, and adventure echo on every page of this novel and sink the reader into a wonderful world.

Cress' father never came back from gathering honey, forcing her mother to move with her and her baby brother. They take up residence in an old oak, which is filled with all sorts of odd neighbors and a grumpy landlord. Cress hopes to see her father again some day, but until then, she needs to figure out how to get along with everyone and find her place in their new life.

This is a gentle read as I'd hoped it'd be. It starts out a little slower, allowing the reader to sink in with Cress and her small family as they face the absence of their father and make their way to the new home. Although a gentle beginning, it's not boring and does a marvelous job at developing the familiar back-and-forth dynamics always found in family relationships. Cress loves her mother and baby brother, but their little quibbles and trying to cope with the difficult situation really bring this home. First then do the neighbors come in, and the adventures of Cress can really begin.

Cress is simply sweet. She's unsure and careful, and yet, packs curiosity and a sense of adventure. It makes her very likeable and easy to relate to. The characters around her are so colorful that it's hard not to like every single one. Each has quirks, good and bad, and each brings their own personality to the page. Adventure with this group is contagious and packs tons of heart. There are tension packed moments, where the reader will hold their breath and others simply touch the heart. Not only animal-tale lovers will get lost in this read.

And before I forget, the illustrations are lovely. Not only do they add great breaks to the text (which is nicely spaced, in a slightly larger font, and an easy read), but they do a wonderful job at setting each scene. I am looking forward to see what Cress will experience next.

And here he is...

Gregory Maguire is the author of the incredibly popular books in the Wicked Years series, including Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, which inspired the musical. He is also the author of several books for children, including What-the-Dickens, New York Times bestseller, and Egg & Spoon, New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year. Gregory Maguire lives outside Boston.

David Litchfield started to draw when he was very young, creating comics for his older brother and sister. Since then his work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and books and on T-shirts. His first picture book, The Bear and the Piano, won the Waterstones Children's Book Prize. He is also the illustrator of Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and War Is Over by David Almond. David Litchfield lives in England.