Friday, February 19, 2021

Brave in the Woods - book review 2.19.21

When I was young, I looked for those books that made me feel emotions deeply.  They ranged in emotions - sometimes I wanted a book that was so scary I had to keep reading or just read the ending first (yes, I'm one of those).  Sometimes I wanted a book that was going to make me cry, usually tears of heartache because of the death of a character.
I still search for those books today.  Maybe not the scary ones (I like sleeping at night), but those books that reach into my heart and make me feel an emotion so deeply, that it permeates my heart.  Sometimes it's a book that leaves me in tears, or has me shed them throughout the story.  Sometimes it's a book that makes my heart so happy I just want to hug it.  Sometimes it's a book that gives me so much hope that I don't ever want it to end.
This is one of those books.  I finished the book with hope and tears.

Brave in the Woods by Tracy Holczer
Brave in the Woods
by Tracy Holczer
published by G.P. Putnam's Sons

Juni's older brother, Connor, has gone missing from his position in the army in Afghanistan.  While many people around Juni are certain he has died, Juni is holding out hope.  And she knows if she completes a quest, one that may also help eliminate the curse from the Grimms fairy tales that seem to be plaguing her family, Connor will return to her.  Juni enlists the help of her two very best friends and Connor's best friend.  They set out on this quest that has stops along the way to meet a witch and find places that Juni's grandmother has laid out for her.  Anya, her grandmother, has given Juni some information about the curse, in an old journal that Juni is meant to read and then add her own story in.  This journal fills in the pieces and helps Juni understand her family's past, particularly Anya's.  Helping her along the way is an antler bone that she wears around her neck.  Juni was born with severe asthma and Connor was able to save her at her birth.  She was born outside and was not breathing.  Connor ran with her to get her the medical attention she needed and a buck ran alongside them in the woods.  From that day, Connor and Juni looked at bucks as a miraculous creature that was special to the two of them.  Juni seems to feel Connor with this special bone.  As Juni and her friends set out on her quest to get Connor's army dog back to her family, and find a witch to help her with a spell to bring a lost item home, and find places that will help her understand Anya's story, it's actually Juni who finds peace within herself and the hope she needs to move on.
I love how Holczer has many important moving parts to this story and how they all connect with Juni.  It's a story about hope and family and friendship.  A story about grieving and finding your own way to move on.  A story about believing that your very last hope can come true.
This is the story I would have wanted to read as a child and a story I wanted to read now.  Recommended for grades 4-7.
Be sure to read Tracy's Nerdy Book Club post about how all of these pieces of the story came to be.


  1. I've had Tracy's books on my to-read list for awhile. So behind with my reading. This one sounds great too!

  2. I also love finding books that make me feel all the emotions. This book, based on your review, is going to be a joy for me to read.