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‘Almost every page has a treat for the senses . . .’

‘All children (and adults) fantasise about slipping the shackles of boring authority. As an 11-year-old, I aspired to living like these “outlaws”, in a hollow oak tree, with rabbit furs for clothes. But, as BB relates, reality quickly hits home: how, exactly, can the boys really live in a forest? Gradually, they teach themselves how to survive. It isn’t pretty – they fish, they steal a rifle and shoot a wild pig and rustle songbird’s eggs to eat. Robin even climbs an enormous tree to rob an egg belonging to a honey buzzard (the bird is down to a few dozen pairs in Britain, probably because of boys like Robin) – but the book is full of realistic ingenuity and a joyous embrace of the wild world.

Brendon Chase is also a proper page-turner, thanks to the constant risk that the boys will be found by the determined (and slightly hackneyed) Sergeant Bunting, the eccentric, butterfly-collecting Reverend Whiting or the menacing figure of Sir William Bary, who hopes to give “those rascals” a “taste of me huntin’ crop”.

Like comfort eating, a comfort read must be a constant sensory delight and it is here that Brendon Chase really excels. Almost every page has a treat for the senses – wood smoke, the discovery of a an iridescent purple emperor butterfly, or wild swimming. And through the inadvertent, ecstatic discoveries of the grownups chasing the boys, BB shows how adults can rediscover these pleasures too . . .’

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