[review + giveaway] The Night The Forest Came to Town by Charles Ghigna and Annie Wilkinson


Harken to the wonder, let the magic begin.

Sometimes Mother Nature weaves her wizardry in mysterious ways. It’s amazing what can happen overnight.

In The Night the Forest Came to Town, Charles Ghigna and Annie Wilkinson invite us to see for ourselves, as nature reclaims, renews and restores.

It was silent in the city
when the cracks began to form
in the evening late one summer
when the concrete was still warm.

While it’s business as usual for the adults (who are distracted and buried in their cell phones) the kids definitely know something is up. From “distant hills outside of town,” a wondrous wind blows in “a sudden rush of green,” a swirl of energy that spreads seeds everywhere.

At the same time, animals slowly emerge from deep in the forest. Squirrels, rabbits, owls, chipmunks and beavers roam together under a moonlit sky, instinctually drawn to what is happening in town.

Under cover of darkness, flocks of birds disseminate seeds for rooftop gardens, and with the welcome nourishment of steady rain, green saplings take root along the streets, shoots of grass border the sidewalks, and a vacant parking lot becomes fertile ground for seedlings.

The animals are busy too. A beaver builds a dam in the city square fountain, turning it into a pond for tadpoles and fish. At daybreak, early risers watch as an eagle builds a nest atop a park statue. They soon hear the first cry of a hungry baby bird. Miraculous!

With the full morning sun, “the sky turned azure blue,/and everywhere the children played the city grew . . . and grew.” The once dull gray city of concrete and steel has now been transformed into a bright, colorful haven of plants, trees, flowers, window boxes, and pure joy.

This captivating story will hook young readers from the opening lines, enchanting them with its lyrical text and evocative illustrations. Ghigna employs rhyming quatrains to brilliant effect, conjuring up bewitching images with his skillful use of poetic devices and sensory detail (“whispered echoes roam,” “hallowed hush of twilight,” “beneath the veil of twilight’s blush”). Reading aloud his beautiful lines amplifies the magic.

The carefully paced narrative coupled with Wilkinson’s engaging ‘dusk to dawn’ illustrations escalate the drama, building anticipation as it lures the reader into its spell. I like how the artist extended the narrative with child-centric commentary. She portrayed the adults as preoccupied, not noticing the changes taking place until nearly story’s end, when everyone appears awestruck and more attentive. Children doΒ notice things adults miss, and I think they’ll appreciate being recognized for that, as well as knowing that the city continued to grow “everywhere the children played.” Empowering!

Most of Wilkinson’s pictures are rendered in gradually darkening shades of blue, creating a dream-like atmosphere of shadows and starry skies, where happy rather than frightful activities take place. As night gradually gives way to sunrise, a variety of colors becomes more distinct, so when the veil of night is finally lifted, the effect is spectacular!

The theme of natural reclamation is a good one for our overbuilt, uber electronic times. Much of the dolor of modern life is the result of a disconnect from the natural world and a lack of attention to what is truly meaningful.

Growth in any form is positive and uplifting, offering hope and fresh perspectives. The contrast between the disengaged people we see in the beginning vs. the happy people tending a community garden at the end will hopefully inspire us all to cultivate a little wonder now and again and work towards preserving natural habitats.

Embrace the miraculous. Let the beauty in!


written by Charles Ghigna
illustrated by Annie Wilkinson
published by Orca Book Publishers, 2018
Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.



The publisher is generously offering a brand new copy of this book for one lucky Alphabet Soup reader. For a chance to win, please leave a comment at this post no later than midnight (EST) Wednesday, March 27, 2019. You may also enter by sending an email with FOREST in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, please. Good luck!


Rebecca Herzog is hosting the Roundup at Sloth Reads. Zip over to check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week!




April is just a little over a week away, and it’ll soon be time to celebrate National Poetry Month. Are you doing something special on your blog? If so, please send me your info so I can add it to my annual NPM Kidlit Events Roundup. My email: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com.

Please help spread the word. Thanks! Looking forward to hearing what you’ll be up to!


*Interior spreads posted by permission of the publisher, text copyright Β© 2018 Charles Ghigna, illustrations Β© 2018 Annie Wilkinson, published by Orca Book Publishers. All rights reserved.

**This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. When you purchase something using a link on this site, Jama’s Alphabet Soup receives a small referral fee. Thank you for your support!

***Copyright Β© 2019 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

60 thoughts on “[review + giveaway] The Night The Forest Came to Town by Charles Ghigna and Annie Wilkinson

  1. What a delightful and magical concept for a book. I love it! Those distracted adults! Those dusk to dawn drawings…growth. So beautiful. This year for Poetry Month, I’m hosting Poetry Pandemonium at my school. There are 16 poems and brackets…we will see which poem (that has recognizable language arts standards in it) wins the hearts and minds of my school. I will share bits from it in April.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is definitely one of my favorites among the many books he’s published. I hope the distracted parents who read this story to their children get the message . . . πŸ™‚


  2. Magical! I far prefer the forest coming to town over the town coming to the forest. Just saying! I still think about this kid I met in Manhattan who said he’d never played in dirt… I mean NEVER PLAYED IN DIRT. That is crazy! Thanks for sharing this latest from my fellow Alabamian! xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that’s hard to believe — never having played in dirt — but I guess it’s true for many kids. Hope this book inspires kids like him to at least visit a park once in awhile . . .


  3. You beat me to it, Jama. πŸ™‚ β€”not the first time, and won’t be the last. (Not that anyone’s keeping score! LOL) Such a beauty of a book. I’m excited to be sharing it next month for my NPM series too. Thanks for offering your NPM round up again this year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Looking forward to your feature next month!! Had to laugh, because you usually “beat” me to the punch with new books, especially with your Spotlight series. πŸ˜€


  4. Charles Ghigna is a poet’s poet and this book is a gem. What a wonderful post to let us take a peek. Thank you, Jama. Can’t wait to have a copy in my hands.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Much of the dolor of modern life is the result of a disconnect from the natural world and a lack of attention to what is truly meaningful.” AMEN! This book seems like a nice push-back against that dolor!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, a great push-back. And it reminds us of the power of nature in a good way, something we need during a time when we feel powerless whenever a severe weather event occurs.


  6. Jama, Charles’ book looks amazing and you reviewed in such a way that I can’t wait to read it, The illustrations, word choice, and imagery all add to a great read aloud. When introduced to a new book, I always think will my grandbaby love the book as much as I would reading it to her. I say yes to this book. Thank you for sharing the richness of this tale. I reviewed Laura Purdie Salas’ new book as the last stop on her Blog Tour but I forgot to enter it on the link up page. I would love it if you could read the piece and critique what I wrote. I value you expertise as a children’s book reviewer. https://beyondliteracylink.blogspot.com/2019/03/march-musings-19-in-middle-of-night.html Thanks, Jama. Laura’s publisher is offering a giveaway of the book to those who comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Truly gorgeous book in words and art wedded together. Reminds me a smidgeon of Peter Brown’s “The Curious Garden, but they both take place over different time lapses. I love how the illustrator has the children noticing things the adult doesn’t, I agree with you they’ll like that. Thanks for sharing this special and timely book Jama! Also love the art on the top banner too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The illustrator did extend the story in wonderful ways. I must look for more of her work. πŸ™‚

      And thanks for noticing this week’s banner. Jane Massey is a new favorite (will feature more of her work in a separate blog post soon).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely a wonderful pairing of author and illustrator for this picture book. Both words and pictures create such an evocative atmosphere.


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