Cnwcyn - Meinir Pierce Jones
Updated: Sep 27, 2022
*For Welsh review, please see language toggle switch*
(suggested) reading age: 7+
(suggested) interest age: 4+
Genre: #fiction #picturebook #nature
Trouble in paradise
I like the name 'Cnwcyn' – [which actually means small hill] – it’s a funny sounding little name that suits this woodpecker perfectly. The onomatopoeic qualities of the name are quite apt, as you’ll certainly hear this bird before you see him. Cnwcyn (and his friends) live in the woods of Pen-y-Bryn in tranquil peace and quiet, that is, until the men in hard hats come to turn their lives upside down. They’ve come for one purpose alone, to raze the forest to the ground, and will make Cnwcyn & co homeless in the process.
But sadly, down come the trees, and despite Cnwcyn’s repeated requests to neighbours for a place to stay, nobody’s willing to put a roof over his head. His unfortunate situation after losing his home is even more heart-breaking as we see similar stories on the news from Ukraine every day.
Things get from bad to worse in Pen-y-Bryn, because when a large fire threatens all the other animals too, it’s Cnwcyn who’s straight there to lend a hand. The other animals soon come to realize that to overcome any challenge, you must work together and have a bit of faith.
Will Cnwcyn & co find a new home?
This is an original Welsh language book, with a 'traditional' feel about it but featuring contemporary environmental messages such as deforestation and wildlife, but also things like homelessness and being a refugee to some extent. We also have the usual moral tales of friendship, empathy and collaboration. Sound like a lot of themes to include in one story? Well, they all slot neatly and effortlessly into the story, without being forced.
I understand that children see the world in a more black and white way than adults, and there's obviously a limit to the extent of what you can include in a picture book, but I wonder, is there a tendency to portray the loggers in a rather stereotypical way as the big bad guys? I’m probably overthinking it – but forestry workers need to live too don’t they? But I acknowledge that perhaps the message of sustainable forestry practices was a bit much to include here.
According to some statistics, we lose 10 million hectares of forests every year worldwide (which is very concerning!) The sooner we can educate the little ones about the problems facing our planet, the better. Here’s to hoping they’ll do a better job of caring for it than our generation did, whilst they clear up our mess.
The cartoon-like artwork by Thom Morgan is vivid and colourful, and the story itself is rather substantial – value for money for your £6.99! A perfect bedtime story, that works even better with adult on hand to help with the reading, and to chat about some of the interesting topics that the book pertains to.