Into the Forest by Anthony Browne

Into the Forest.

Derived from the well known traditional tale, “The Little Red Riding Hood”.

In this book, unlike The Little Red Riding Hood and other versions of the tale where the character is often chosen to be a little girl, the main character is a little boy, who we aren’t given a name for.

He opens the story being rudely awakened from his slumber by a very terrible sound! The next morning at breakfast, all was very quiet… his dad wasn’t there. Where did his dad go? Why did he have to leave? When was he coming back? His mum didn’t seem to know, but the book made it very clear throughout that the boy missed him.

Another day goes by and still no dad but now we find out that his Grandmother is not well. His mum sends him to visit with a basket full of treats and a warning “Don’t go into the forest, go the long way round.” Does he listen to her or is he eager to take that short cut and make it back home just in case his dad returns?

A lovely book written and illustrated by Anthony Browne and after reading, waves of ideas came flooding in that I could use in the classroom. 

Suggested activities to do after reading the book:

  • Discussion, looking at the start of the book making predictions about where his dad might have gone, why did he leave and should he have left? Looking into how the boy would have felt after two days and still no dad and now his Grandmother isn’t well. Why did his mother tell him to go the long way and not the shortcut through the forest? Could that have anything to do with his dad not returing home? Why didn’t he listen to his mother? What would he find or who would he meet in the forest? Would the story be the same as the traditional tale of The Little Red Riding Hood? Would he make it to Grandma’s house and would she be there?
  • In small groups, children are given pictures from the first half of the book to  brainstorm different topics to focus on e.g. thoughts and feelings, verbs, modal verbs, adjectives, scenery and dialogue. Using  a drama activity in the form of Thought Tunnels, children are to pretend they are the mum and the boy, they will verbally express what both characters are feeling or thinking using emotive vocabulary which will help them with their writing.
  • The children then write a Narrative finishing the second half of the story, focusing on modal verbs, question marks, 3rd person, 1st person, descriptive vocabulary, expanded noun phrases and emotive vocabulary.
  • The children then focus on the mood used for the forest illustrations in the book. Why did the illustrator choose grayscale for the boys surroundings and other people but colour for  the boy? What were the different types of shading used for the illustrations? Children then to sketch an illustration for their writing in the same style as Anthony Browne.
  • PSHE/PDL- Discussion about the boys feelings when his dad left, which some children will relate to. How it affects his life and looking at ways the boy could overcome to feel “normal” in society; what help was out there for him and/or his mum in and outside of school? How he could then go on to help others in the same position?

I really liked this book. At first I thought it would be similar to The Little Red Riding Hood where it was obvious what would be happening next. But I was pleasantly surprised where at the turn of every page my expectations would be met with something else and I’m caught off guard.

It’s definitely in a league of it’s own and has a world of endless resource possibilities!

Wendene Wignal






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