As the title suggests, this compact picture book is a set of instructions, beginning with ‘Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before’. The reader then assumes the persona of a Puss-in-Boots character walking into a garden, entering a cottage which becomes a palace, braving the Wild Wood, crossing a misty river with the help of a grey-cowled ferryman. Instructions are given at every stage: ‘If any creature tells you that it hungers, feed it’; ‘Trust the wolves, but do not tell them where you are going’; ‘know that diamonds and roses are as uncomfortable when they tumble from one’s lips as toads and frogs’. The eerie scenes depicted in Vess’s vintage-style illustrations are peopled by characters from the faery world, sometimes centre stage, frequently lurking almost out of view. This would be an intriguing book for children to share, spotting the elements they recognise, pondering the ones they don’t. They might also want to select their favourite bits of the text, or evocative phrases from fairy tales they’ve read themselves, to inspire their own imaginative responses.
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Illustrator: Charles Vess