In November 2013 I began a journey with a boy called Kester – and two years later I’m still enthralled by his adventures. I’ve watched Kester rescue the animals with stag, wolf cub, cockroach, white pigeon and mouse in The Last Wild, I’ve seen Kester save the humans in the award-winning sequel, The Dark Wild. And now it’s time for the final instalment in Piers Torday’s trilogy, The Wild Beyond.
This is the story of a boy named Kester. He has rescued the last wild animals in the world, and saved his capital city from destruction. But now he must face his greatest challenge yet, because:
1. The only blue whale on the planet has brought news from across the ocean
2. A mysterious steel dome has risen from the Four Towers
3. Out there, somewhere, a brave mouse holds the key to the future
Although surrounded by his friends, Polly and Aida, and his loyal Wild, Torday begins this book with Kester feeling ‘completely and utterly alone.’ The task ahead, to save the world from complete destruction, finally feels too big for Kester. And it is only when Polly stands up to the adults: ‘You should be ashamed of yourselves… for telling us we couldn’t do it because we’re children’ that Kester realises that despite the hugeness of the task ahead, together with his friends, he might just be capable of doing it after all. And this is what Torday does so well – he champions ‘the child’ on every page.
The adventure begins with a call-to-action from something huge and ancient: ‘One watery sound, that leaks deep into my bones and makes me shiver; so slow and so old.’ It is the blue whale whose song tells Kester exactly what he needs to do to save the planet. The scale of adventure that follows is fabulous (being pulled across the ocean by dolphins reminded Moontrug of James and The Giant Peach being tugged by seagulls) – and the ideas the characters and settings raise on the journey are brilliantly bold. Children won’t be able to read this book without thinking about the way their lives impact the natural world – but Torday never labour points or becomes ‘preachy’ – everything is contained within a wonderful tale of adventure, bravery and hope.
The animal characters and their unique voices leap off the page, from the needy rat (‘This cockroach and I are best pals forever’) to the boastful but adorable wolf cub (‘The more I stare at that drowned wolf, the more I see the most handsomest creature ever to have walked the earth’). The white pigeon is as hilarious (and at times profound) as ever and Moontrug adored new characters like the chilled out lizard dude… But it is perhaps the friendship between Aida, Polly and Kester that Moontrug loved most: feisty dumpsite kid Aida who whips out battery-powered hairdryers from wheelie cases she just ‘happened’ to find, Polly With A Plan and the brave and loyal Kester. The ending to this book broke off a little piece of Moontrug’s heart but when she really thinks about it there could be no other ending to such a story. Torday does it perfectly and beautifully. In fact, Moontrug thinks it’s up there with one of her all-time favourite endings in children’s books. It felt real and raw and honest. The Wild Beyond is an absolute triumph of a book which deserves to win a lot of prizes – and (perhaps more importantly) hearts.