LIFE AND DEATH IN THE WOODS: A Virtual Bookshelf by Juneau Black
Our murder mysteries have a very distinct setting, which is in some northern forest far from big cities and towns. More significantly, it is a world without humans. The books we've selected here (some old, some new, some grounded, some fantastical) are an attempt to convey the mood of Shady Hollow.
One of Juneau Black's picks is out of print! You can look for Tree and Leaf by J. R. R. Tolkien at your local library.
This collection of stories and essays has not one but two(!) especially relevant bits. First, his essay “On Fairy-stories” is a defense of the fantastic and argues that categorizing fantasy and fairy tales as “just for children” is a disservice to both children and adults. As people who created world where animals commit and solve murders, we have to agree. Second, the novella “Leaf by Niggle” is a special treat, a fable about creativity and fear that also happens to be utterly charming.
Shady Hollow is a small town surrounded by forest, and all our creatures are intimately familiar with the woods. Getting the feel for how a forest might play into the plot is easier when you can understand how trees communicate and interact among themselves and with other organisms. This book offers exactly that insight.
Has Mary Roach ever written a dull book? (Answer: no.) With Fuzz, she takes on the issue of animal-based violence, which neatly dovetails with our own interests! Obviously, she’s talking about real-world stuff and especially the boundaries between nature and humanity. But it’s also just a riot to read.
What a sweet and touching story! Raven’s account of of meeting and getting to know a fox neighbor is a study in respect. I love that she first decided to interact via music, and didn’t worry too much about whether this was the “correct” way to make friends with a wild animal.
Yes, yes, yes…it’s a kids’ book. A baby book. Or is it an everyone book? The simple text, paired with deeply detailed scenes of the passing seasons, is actually contemplative and even a sort of meditation on the cycles of nature. Give yourself the gift of reading it with beginner’s mind.