Children of the Forest

by Matt Myers (Author)

Reading Level: K − 1st Grade

Two siblings set off to live a life of adventure in the untamed wilds of their own backyard in this funny and beautifully illustrated picture book.

We are wild. We are children of the forest. We were raised by wolves. And raccoons. And owls. Grabbing a bow and quiver, a kid sets off, toddler sister in tow, to live off the land in the expanses of their own backyard. First, they sneak past their snoozing father to pilfer supplies from the refrigerator, but only what they need. After that, they're utterly on their own. Out in these uncharted spaces they encounter many dangers, from a ferocious mountain lion (a house cat) to a hulking canine beast (their dog). When the sun dips low, they make a camp complete with defenses to ward off predators.

Matt Myers's cool self-serious text is juxtaposed with whimsical art depicting the playful antics of backyard life, making for a tale full of delight for imaginative children.

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Horn Book Magazine

Though the illustrations make clear that the duo is exploring their own backyard, the text stays true to the narrator's sharply etched imagination. . . . An ode to the natural world--and the abundant imagination of children.


This affectionate portrayal of a brother-sister relationship also charmingly demonstrates how familiar settings and objects can--with a little creativity--make for big adventures.

Publishers Weekly

Two pale-skinned siblings confront outdoor life with unusual bravery in a sly backyard adventure. Invoking the vibe of classic children's book protagonists, the narrator wears a green hoodie and totes a bow and a quiver full of arrows; the other, Sister, sports a red knit cap. Despite a solemn spread that shows the narrator gazing at the outdoors ("What will become of us?...All we know is that Mother Nature will take care of us"), the scheme is quickly revealed as make-believe, and very, very close to home. On second glance, the quiver might be an old oatmeal box; Sister stomps in mud puddles and chews on tent poles. Myers (Dino-Gro) makes the most of the contrast between the narrator's dramatic voice-over and spreads that show what's really happening as the children sneak into their house for sustenance ("We are silent, like the wind"), stand up to a puma (their cat), and wrestle a wild beast (the family's St. Bernard). Pencil and watercolor illustrations offer high-energy encounters, while fantastical shrub-creatures that lurk in the background contribute to the fantasy feel. Myers writes with sharp wit, making exemplary use of the picture book format by employing tension between what readers hear and what they're shown. Ages 2-5. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Apr.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

A boy revels in being a creature of the wild, living off the land and teaching his little sister the ways of survival. His narration leans into a sense of rugged isolationism: "What will become of us? No one knows. All we know is that Mother Nature will take care of us." Meanwhile the illustrations slowly reveal the setting to be the children's own backyard, and the day ends with the sister abandoning their tent for a hug from their mother and a cozy bed. The combination of spare text with lush illustrations will engage very young children, while the disconnect between the boy's narration and the reality portrayed in the illustrations will intrigue and amuse older kids. The stubborn seriousness of the protagonist at maintaining his illusion, extending to calling his mother a "scavenger woman," creates the slowly building humor of the book. Lush watercolor illustrations, full of greens and browns, evoke the wilderness of nature and a child's imagination. Some children may be worried by a passage in which a "wild beast" (the family dog) is seemingly felled by one of the boy's arrows, after which he says: "We will feast tonight, Sister. The drumstick is the best part." The dog is pictured happily panting next to the playing children on the subsequent page. VERDICT Celebrating the power of a child's imagination and outdoor exploratory play, this book is particularly well suited to a read aloud and group discussion.—Elizabeth Lovsin

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.


The contrast between text and images is clever, and the relationship between the protective older sibling and the younger one is delightful. 

Review quotes

Matt Myers
Matt Myers has illustrated over a dozen books for children, including Erin Cabatingan's Musk Ox books, Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett's Battle Bunny, and many more. Hum and Swish is the first book he's both authored and illustrated. He lives with his wife Maya Myers in North Carolina.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Neal Porter Books
Publication date
April 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV051000 - Juvenile Fiction | Imagination & Play
Library of Congress categories
Brothers and sisters

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