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Cover image for Alone in the forest
Alone in the forest
[Chennai] : [Tara Books, India], [2012]
Physical Description:
1 volume (36 color unnumbered pages) : color illustrations ; 25 cm
After hearing a loud sound while out in the woods, Musa is struck with fear, but must find a way out and back to his village.


Call Number
E Wolf

On Order



"The terrifying experience of being alone in the woods is rendered through the eyes of a young Indian boy. . . A familiar story arc conveyed through traditional art captivates with its freshness and originality." - Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews

"Shyam's stylized, boldly outlined forms brim with energy... A simple, satisfying story, much enriched by its cultural grounding and handsome art." - Horn Book Magazine

"This exquisite piece of storytelling speaks both to our crippling fear of the unfamiliar and our ability to transcend it and emerge somehow enriched by that experience." - Brain Pickings

One day Musa sets off from his village to collect firewood. It is the first time he has ventured out alone. Suddenly he hears a loud noise and becomes very afraid. Was the sound a wild boar? A whole herd of wild boars? Or something even worse?

Typography, book design, contemporary tribal artwork, and narrative merge in this powerful yet sensitive visual story for children about fear. Artwork by the talented Bhajju Shyam, the celebrated Gond folk artist from India, whose previous books include The Night Life of Trees and That's How I See Things .

US Grade Level Equivalent: 1, US Guided Reading Level: I

Author Notes

Gita Wolf is a highly original and creative voice in contemporary Indian publishing, and the founder of Tara Books. She is known for her interest in exploring and experimenting with the form of the book. Gita has written over twenty books for children and adults, many of which have been translated into multiple languages and recognized internationally.

Andrea Anastasio is an artist and designer who was born in Rome in 1961. He studied Philosophy, Asian studies, and Street Theatre, before going on to start a very successful design practice.
Andrea's connection to India is a long one, going back to 1991 when he began researching rural architecture, folk art and religion. He now regularly commutes between India and Italy. He is currently working on several new projects with Tara Books.

Bhajju Shyam is widely accepted as the finest living Gond tribal artist in India. Bhajju's intricate and colorful work is well known throughout India and has been exhibited in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Holland and Russia. Alone in the Forest is Bhajju's seventh book with Tara Books, and his fourth as a solo artist. From the walls of his tribal village home to international acclaim, Bhajju's has been an incredible creative journey.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 1-In the straightforward style of the traditional oral storyteller comes this simple tale of a boy learning to conquer his worst fear. One afternoon, when his mother is feeling sick, young Musa assures her that he can gather firewood from the forest. But the forest is dark, and, when he hears "out of nowhere, a great noise. crashing through the trees," the terrified child leaps into a hollow tree trunk, where he stays, crouching and trembling; thinking scary thoughts; feeling lost and alone. Later, when all is quiet and calm, a tiny squirrel and a friendly cow help him regain his self-assurance and he returns to the village. Painted in the primitive folk-art style of the Gond people, who live in the hills of central India, the extraordinary illustrations fill each page with bold, muted colors and meld perfectly with this well-told tale. The almond-shaped eyes of the flat, childlike images of people and animals that appear on every page are repeated in several huge representations throughout the story. People, animals, trees, clothing, and houses are highly detailed, patterned, and textured in black line. Illustrations and text vary in size and in placement on the page, the text often appearing in circles of yellow sun or blue shadow. Even the darkest scenes have touches of color. Musa's fear of facing the unknown without his mother's protection is one to which most young children will surely relate.-Susan Scheps, formerly at Shaker Public Library, OH (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Wolf and Anastasio's exploration of a boy's anxiety is vivid enough to make readers themselves uneasy. A boy named Musa, gathering wood in the forest by himself, hears a tremendous noise: "Craack! Boooom! Crack!" The drama that unfolds is not in the forest, but in Musa's mind. Gond tribal artist Shyam's figures are as flat and stylized as medieval icons. He paints Musa's fear-widened eyes against a sea of angry red. "It was a wild boar!" Musa thinks. A page turn reveals a swirling herd of wild boars with fangs and red tongues. Hiding in a tree, Musa grows more agitated: "He crouched in the dark hole, ready for something terrible to happen any second. He forgot everything else, and just waited." At last Musa finds his way home by holding the tail of a friendly cow. After the dark reds and blacks of Musa's imaginings, Shyam telegraphs his relief with sunlit blues and greens. The book's greatest pleasure lies, unexpectedly, in Shyam's images of the forest as a living kaleidoscope, full of intricate, shifting patterns of leaves and branches. Ages 4-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Wolf (The Enduring Ark, rev. 9/13) sets her tale of a child venturing outside his usual sphere among the forest-dwelling Gonds of central India. Since Musa's mother is too ill to fetch firewood, she sends Musa. Proud to be "grown up," he marches into the forest humming with confidence--until an ominous "crack!?" and a "boooom!?" ignite his fears. Wild boars? He'd been chased by one before! Terrified, Musa hides deep in a hollow tree until a squirrel lures him out into the sunshine, where he sees a friendly cow he can follow back to his village--without firewood, but with a story to tell. According to a note, the illustrations, by a Gond tribal artist, "derive from the decorative patterns painted on the mud floors and walls of [Gond] houses." Shyam's stylized, boldly outlined forms brim with energy. The forest's dark tones convey emotion; sharp teeth and vivid red connote Musa's fear, while varied depictions of him signal his changing emotions. The source of those frightening sounds appears only in an illustration: it's a falling branch that might (ironically) have provided firewood. A simple, satisfying story, much enriched by its cultural grounding and handsome art. joanna rudge long (c) Copyright 2014. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

The terrifying experience of being alone in the woods is rendered through the eyes of a young Indian boy. Assuring his ailing mother that he's grown-up enough to get wood from the forest near his home, Musa sets off happily with his axe, only to be frightened by a loud noise. Hiding in the hollow of a large tree, he imagines himself trapped in a circle of wild boars. He waits in the dark, convinced he will never escape. The illustrator, a noted Gond tribal artist, conveys the boy's experience convincingly with evocative and elegantly produced images. Patterns of lines, dots, and chains fill the figures, which are enhanced with solid blocks of colors. There is no depth to these scenes, but there is great variety. The cheery daylight of the beginning turns to a foreboding darkness; the text is white on a black background. The stylized trees, birds and squirrels of the forest are reduced to a maze of branches through which readers see Musa's terrified eye in close-up. The emotional spell of his fear is broken by a squirrel and then a friendly, familiar cow who leads Musa home to safety. "He didn't have any wood, but he was very proud of the story he had to tell." A familiar story arc conveyed through traditional art captivates with its freshness and originality. (Picture book. 4-7)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.