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If you love fairytales, I have a wonderful book for you. Otto Tattercoat and the Forest of Lost Things by Matilda Woods is a beautiful fairytale about friendship that touches on complex moral themes.

The Story

When Otto’s mother disappears in their new, freezing town of Hodeldorf, he determines to find her. But thing go from bad to worse when Otto’s coat is stollen and then he is lured into a boot polish factory that uses kidnapped children as free labor.

Nim is a Tattercoat, one of a band of homeless children who steal only what they need to survive. She feels guilty for stealing a coin from Otto when she learns he’s been forced into labor in the very factory she once escaped.

This tale of friendship grows more magical and more complicated as Nim and Otto look for his missing mother, try to help the other children, and seek to discover why Hodeldorf has been in a frozen winter for the last fifty years.

What I loved

  • Beautiful fairytale–Woods has created a beautiful and imaginative world with moral complexity. I couldn’t put this book down.
  • Friendship–The friendships that develop through this story are wonderful. Self-sacrifice and helping others is a key to their beauty.

Parents should know

  • Stealing–The Tattercoats live by stealing. While this may make us uncomfortable (as it does Otto when he joins them), in the world of this story these children are left without a choice. Their society refuses to help them. The Tattercoats live by a strict code to only take what they absolutely need. This is a great opportunity to talk with your kids about morally ambiguous situations.
  • Witch–The children run into a pretty nasty witch in the woods who wants to eat them. This is a fairytale, after all.
  • Death and other scary things–many of the children’s parents have died because of the severe cold. Two adults are found frozen holding their still living child. The owner of the boot polish factory is cruel and forces the half-starved children to work long hours. The children speculate that one boy had his tongue cut out. None of these things are described graphically, but may be more difficult for some children.

Fans of Jonathan Auxier’s books Sweep and Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes will love this story. It also reminded me a bit of Snow and Rose, which is a lovely fairytale retelling. (Click the titles to read my reviews). However this fairytale is entirely unique. It’s our current read aloud, and I highly recommend it for kids of all ages!

I also read and enjoyed another book by Matilda Woods called The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker. It’s another lovely fairytale.

If you’re looking for more wonderful middle-grade fantasy books like this one, click here to get my exclusive booklist.

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