Otto Tattercoat and the Forest of Lost Things, by Matilda Woods

Otto Tattercoat and the Forest of Lost Things, by Matilda Woods (Philomel Books, June 2020) , is a magical story that I think would make a great read aloud for 8-10 year olds.  If you enjoyed Woods' first two books--The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker, and The Girl Who Sailed the Stars, you'll enjoy this one too.  It has much of the same dream-like quality I think those two have, and it is my personal favorite of the three!

Otto and his mother arrive in the cold, grey town of Hodorf, where his mother plans to make and sell coats.  Otto is doubtful, and when she leaves the inn where they are staying to run errands, and doesn't come back, doubt is replaced by dread.  Hodorf is a place full of young thieves who call themselves the Tattercoats-- raged children who sleep curled up next to the town's chimneys, sometimes freezing to death, and always hungry. Two of these kids target Otto on his first solo expedition to look for his mother.  One, Nim, takes his money, and another, Blink, takes his coat.

Nim is kind-hearted, and returns almost all of his money...but it's not nearly enough to keep paying for a room.  So when another girl speaks kindly to him, and promises to lead him to a place where he'll be warm and looked after, he goes with her. This "sanctuary," though, is a terrible shoe-polish factory, whose cruel owner enslaves children in classically evil gothic child-worker style.

Nim, though, can't shake a feeling of responsibility toward Otto, and so she and her pet rat manage to get him out.  Now he too becomes a Tattercoat, but is no closer to finding his mother...And at this point the story swings toward the truly fantastic, when Nim, Otto, and Blink set out into the woods outside the town, which are full of dangerous magic that's full of echoes of familiar fairy tales.  Giants, dragons, witches and enchantments await....

If you like plucky kids on their own, in both mundane and magical peril, being fiercely loyal to each other, and banding together against a cruel world, this is a book for you!  Otto is a protagonist without particular agency, but Nim and Nibble, the rat, have enough for the both of them, and Blink is a solid contributor to the party, with an interesting bit of back-story. As I said, I think it would make a lovely read-aloud; though there's danger and unhappiness, the familiar fairy tale echoes and the good-heartedness of many of the characters give it a cozy feel--Otto's mother is found and the greedy bad guys get their just come-uppance!  I agree with Kirkus on this one--"Both charming and wise."


  1. The title of this one prompted me to click through to your review. This reminds me that I actually have a (unread) copy of The Boy, the Bird, and the Coffin Maker. I will try that out and if I like it, I will give this a go.

    1. This one is somewhat more accessible, I think--BB and CM is tightly focused on a single character, and there's no clear sense of what the heck is happening; here there's villains, and friends, and a sense that the story is happening in a place that has existence, so even if you don't care for BB and CM you might like this one....

    2. Ah, good to know, I will keep that in mind.


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