Book Review: Hush Hush, Forest

Hush Hush, ForestHush Hush, Forest
Mary Casanova, Woodcuts by Nick Wroblewski
University of Minnesota Press

A beautiful way to welcome winter, and bedtime, with the northwoods as backdrop

It’s safe to say I’m always looking for delicious bedtime books. Our busy, chatty, distractible four-year-old adores her cartoon-princess-unicorn stories, and its become my mission to balance out the commercialism that flows through our house, without being harsh. I look for books with something new to say, or that help us with our vocabulary, I look for books that work as well for girls as for boys, and that reinforce our family’s love of the outdoors. And, I won’t buy a book unless its beautifully illustrated and well written. Too much to ask?

You know that feeling when you open a book with your child and sense you’re in for something special, different. Hush Hush, Forest checks all of my usual criteria and beyond. The illustrations are serious, artful and dramatic. The words are more verse than narrative and leave space for our musings and woodland wanderings – we flip through the pages and trace our fingers over the words and the pictures…

Remember when we heard that big owl? … I might be a little shy of owls.

Yes, black bears do live in our state, Daddy saw one once, let’s ask him tomorrow …

… Mommy, can we go to the aurora borealis?


The artist and author are both deeply connected to the northern Minnesota landscape.

Illustrator Nick Wroblewski says:

The forest of the MN/Canada border region is important to me because it is the wilderness I remember most as a child. I would visit the north shore of Lake Superior, The Boundary Waters, and The Quetico when I was growing up. The rocks, the water, the trees, all feel familiar to me. They represent a vivid freshness, a purity, and a sense of how things might be when untouched by humans.

I am hoping “Hush Hush, Forest” will convey a deep sense of wonder, reverence, and awe in children.

Author Mary Casanova says:

Though I grew up in the Twin Cities, I fell in love with the northwoods every time my family piled into a station wagon and drove north. I fell in love at an early age with the haunting songs of the loon and the melancholy voice of the white-throated sparrow. The air was different. Crisp, fresh, and pine-scented. And there was always something to see: an owl in flight, a doe and fawn, the brilliant maple leaf in the fall… That’s why after college, my husband and I both chose to move to northern Minnesota…. Plus, fall is my favorite season with its sense of urgency. People are taking out rakes and cleaning out rain gutters, all while creatures of the forest are preparing, too, for the winter season ahead. I wanted to write a story that would capture the activity and beauty of the season, while helping instill an appreciation for nature. I was lucky to have parents who took me to the woods at an early age, but not every child is so lucky. Many adults have never experienced the forest in any season. That’s what I love about books. They help readers transcend their personal experience. My hope for “Hush Hush, Forest” is that readers of all ages will be inspired to leave technology behind for a few moments and get out into the natural world.

hushhushnorah2Hush Hush, Forest calls us to snuggle up, to calm down after a busy bright day, to consider what the birds, animals and the forest are doing to prepare for winter, even now while we settle down to rest. Each illustration is a story of its own, full of drama and the printmaker’s hand — I appreciate the un-idealized beauty of real animals and real places and the real woodgrain showing through ink.

Quiet like the woods after a snowfall, each page is deliberately arranged to encourage us to pause, take a breath between thoughts… Did my little girl fall fast asleep by the last page? Yes, yes she did.

– Reviewed by Kari Finkler, Editor Quetico Superior Wilderness News


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