Cress Watercress is a highly illustrated middle grade novel which follows the fortunes of the Watercress family after their Papa’s disappearance. This gentle woodland story is full of heart and encompasses themes of growing up, moving on, dealing with grief and learning to become part of a new community.
The Story: Papa hasn’t returned from collecting honey. Cress is hopeful that he will return but her mother is more realistic. They move out of their warren into a run-down basement flat in the Broken Arms – an old oak tree. Mama, Cress and little brother, Kip, are the only rabbits in the community but slowly they make friends with their noisy squirrel neighbours and learn to live alongside the other tenants – a nosy caretaker mouse, a pair of gossipy songbirds and the landlord, Mr Owl, who doesn’t move from the top of the tree and accepts moths as payment for rent.
Mama tries to make the tree into a home but trying to make ends meet, pay rent and provide food for her children is stressful. She spends her time weaving and collecting moths and honey whilst being alert to the ever threatening presence of Reynard the Fox, Tunk the honey bear and the snake, ‘The Final Drainpipe’.
Cress Watercress includes a colourful cast of characters – secretive but menacing Mr Titus Pillowby Owl, mouse caretaker, Manfred Crabgrass, and his frail wife Sophie, and arrogant skunk, Lady Cabbage. Cress becomes particularly friendly with squirrel Finian, a lonely rabbit, Nasty, and Fricassee Sunday, a chicken.
Finian and Cress are dealing with all the anxieties and experiences of growing up while questioning their place in the world and filling their days with adventure. They explore their surroundings, raft down rivers, collect food for their families and play together whilst their parents deal with worries about illness and eviction.
The story is split into short, highly illustrated, easy to read chapters. We love David Litchfield’s wonderfully atmospheric illustrations, they perfectly convey different aspects of the woodland setting and add so much to the pleasure of reading. The characters are really lifelike – Finian and Cress are adorable whilst Tunk and Mr Owl are suitably menacing (although all isn’t quite as it seems…!).
We were immediately drawn into the lives of Cress and her new friends and neighbours and couldn’t put the book down as we followed their adventures. With Christmas just around the corner, Cress Watercress would make a great present for an animal lover.
Age Range: 8+
Author: Gregory Maguire / Illustrator: David Litchfield
Thank you to Walker Books for sending a copy of this beautiful story. We’d love to read more adventures with Cress Watercress and her friends.
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