1993 a new cartoon series came to the BBC and being around six or seven years old, I sat down to watch it. I loved animals and anything to do with them. It has long since been one of my favourite things to watch since being a child. I first read the books when I was about eight or nine when the second series came out on TV.
Lately I bought myself the DVD of The Animals of Farthing Wood – only available in Germany weirdly enough but you can watch the English version rather then having to learn German. I just sat down and watched it pretty much straight through. I can’t have seen it in about ten years since our video player gave up the ghost and it is just as good now as it was back then.
And so seeing as I still had my old book I read when I was a child – I decided to re-read the series. It’s been a bit like memory lane and I’ve been wanting to revisit my old childhood favourites for a while now anyway.
It’s going to be difficult to review this book without comparing it to the cartoon series. For me both are so caught up with each other in my head anyway.
Having re-read it I can say that the TV series is a lot better. The book I felt was rather dated and I thought a little sexist. The only female character who had a voice was the Vixen and even that was very little comparatively. In the cartoon series, many of the book’s characters have had a sex change.
The Animals of Farthing Wood is quite similar to Watership Down albeit aimed at younger children. They are both about a group of animals who decide to travel to a different home due to human’s building on their land. The animals are presented realistically and do not behave like animal shaped humans. They are not overly cute and they face dangers that would naturally occur in the wild – and some of them even die.
The deaths in the book I felt to be less traumatic then they were in the TV series. I cried throughout the cartoon, but in the books deaths were dealt with much more matter-of-factly and of course, without any timely music.
Colin Dann goes in a bit heavy handed with the moral message about human’s complete lack of regard for wildlife – touching upon animal cruelty as well as environmental destruction. Understandably however, this book is aimed at children and so the message probably has to be made a little more obvious and clear. Quite often some of the characters will lapse into a small lecture of how strange humans are and how cruel they can be.
This is a good book for children who love animals, or even adults too. Whereas Watership Down is much more aimed at Young Adults to fully grown adults, The Animals of Farthing Wood is more suited to a younger audience.
However young and old alike will enjoy the beautiful cartoon which you can see on youtube. Like the Watership Down film (1978) the backgrounds are beautifully drawn in watercolour.
This is the first book in the Farthing Wood series and I hope to re-read the rest of them in due course.