My Rating: 5 stars
This is the sixth installment in McGuire’s Wayward Children series, which focuses on children who go to various portal worlds and struggle returning to the real world. These children end up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a school run by a woman who went to a portal world as a child. The odd numbered books focus on students at the school who have already returned from their worlds while the even numbered books focus on children initially going into their worlds. Across the Green Grass Fields is the latter. Regan goes through a mysterious door in the woods and finds herself in the Hooflands, a world filled with unicorns, centaurs, kelpies, and other equine creatures. I know some fans of the series didn’t love this one as much as other installments, but it’s actually tied for my favorite with In an Absent Dream. I always love the books that show the children’s adventures in their worlds before going to school. And I particularly enjoyed this world because I had a slight horse phase as a child.
But what I loved the most about this book is that it is appropriate for a younger audience, an audience who would just be encountering The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time. Most of this series is fairly dark and rather gruesome at some points. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that. I love dark, and it’s meant for teen readers rather than children. But I do think a lot of the themes McGuire deals with can come up for young readers after finishing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. For me as a kid, I found it upsetting that the Pevensies lived their whole lives as kings and queens only to be forced back to the real world as children. It didn’t seem fair. And it didn’t seem fair that they were asked to potentially sacrifice themselves for a world that threw them out. I’m obviously not the only one who felt that way considering this series exists and deals with all that. While Across the Green Grass Fields still features the grey morality of the other books, the dark and gruesome aspects are considerably toned down. Sure, there’s flesh-eating kelpies, but no one’s getting brutally murdered on page. I could see myself reading this to a kid after Narnia to have a discussion about these themes.
Something I’ve always appreciated about this series is the LGBT+ representation. We have trans characters, asexual characters, lesbian characters, and now, in this installment, an intersex character. There isn’t a whole lot of intersex representation out there, so it was nice to see. It felt quite well handled (I can’t say for sure since I’m not intersex). I found the conversation between Regan and her parents about it particularly lovely. It was nice to see supportive parents! I also think this book would be a great way to enter a conversation about gender and identity with a kid since it can work for younger readers.
Overall, Across the Green Grass Fields is an excellent addition to the Wayward Children series. I’m excited for the next book to come out, and I hope we get to see more of Regan at some point.