Review: By Ash, Oak and Thorn by Melissa Harrison

I was sent a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Blurb: Three little people, no bigger than your hand, wake up from their winter sleep in the hollow trunk of an old ash tree. Moss, Burnet and Cumulus usually love spring, but their joy turns to worry when they discover that Cumulus, the oldest, is starting to fade away. The trio leave their beloved home in search of answers. Guided by birds, stars and wild creatures, they set out to find more of their kind. Other Hidden Folk are rumoured to live in an ancient oak on the bank of a stream, deep in the countryside. But they soon learn that they must travel much further, to a loud, busy and danger-filled place called The Hive…

Title: By Ash, Oak and Thorn

Author: Melissa Harrison

Publisher: Chicken House

Genre: Fiction, 9-12, Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure


Every year three Hidden Folk, Cumulus, Moss and Burnet, awake from their slumber at the beginning of spring to keep an eye on their part of the Wild World. But this year, Cumulus’ hand has become invisible and a quest to find out what’s happening will take these three old friends on the journey of a lifetime.

The easiest way that I can sum up this story is to say it’s like The Borrowers meets The Little Grey Men. The Hidden Folk, small enough to hide amongst the bushes and live happily in the base of an ash tree, journey on an adventure through the countryside (and into a city!) to find answers to the worrying question of why parts of their friend are starting to disappear. The classic feel of this story is undeniable and felt particularly comforting for someone who grew up listening to similar adventures. This story combines that with the message of reminding young readers about the inherent beauty of the natural world and our need to protect it. This, I feel, is becoming a trend in books lately and it’s a lovely one – especially with so many people getting back out into nature in the past year or so! The adventure aspect is well paced, with the characters moving between hitching rides on birds and deer to meeting new friends and making discoveries. These Hidden Folk are always on the go and it really kept things interesting!

Another thing that I want to praise is the ending. I won’t spoil anything here but the ending did almost bring a tear to my eye which doesn’t often happen for me with middle grade stories. The writing was enough to tug on your heart strings, coupled with the fact that you become attached to these three main characters throughout their journey.

As for what I disliked, for the most part there wasn’t anything. My only thing of note with this book would be that the characters are all fairly similar. This is particularly the case with the Hidden Folk who, despite each having a stand out personality trait, felt otherwise a little bit interchangeable. Now, the way that they’re written did have a very classic feel, much like the other two titles mentioned above, so if you’re after a slightly more modern classic then I’d say this would be the opposite of a problem.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book to any readers (young or old) who timeless tales set in the beauty of the natural world!

Rating: 4/5

Recommend?: Yes

Have you read this book? Or maybe you’ve read something similar? What did you think? I’d love to know!

You can always find me over on Twitter if you’d like to discuss this book (or any others that I’ve featured) in more detail 😌

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