Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker

Title: Over the Woodward Wall.
SeriesThe Up-and-Under #1.
Writer(s)A. Deborah Baker.
Publisher: Tor.com.
Format: Digital Copy.
Release Date: October 6th, 2020.
Pages: 208.
Genre(s): Fantasy.
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.


How unsettling would it be for a child to find themselves in a world that they don’t know, outside of their usual setting, forced to navigate through it to find comfort and security? Leave it to their imagination to make matters worse, or better for some, as every instant could turn into a moment of epiphany or a grand lesson in life that could change a person fundamentally. However, it is when facing adversity that one realizes that there is so much to take away from life than its harsh obstacles and unguided trials. Author A. Deborah Baker, a pseudonym for Seanan McGuire and also the name of a character in Middlegame, presents her latest middle-grade novel, the first of a series, that offers a psychedelic and memorable adventure into a foreign and quirky land called the Up and Under.

What is Over the Woodward Wall about? Set in an utterly normal town, two children live on the same street but embrace different lives. On one hand, Hepzibah, mostly known under the name Zib, is an adventurer who loves her foray into the woods and doesn’t have a care in the world for discipline and stationary activities. On the other hand, Avery is a cautionary child who loves structure, cleanliness, and routine. They both have never met each other before but will soon be entangled in an unforeseeable adventure when a prompted detour from home to school forces them to confront a low stone wall. Compelled to climb over, they incidentally arrive into the Up and Under, a fairytale land where mysteries are coated over mysteries while strange creatures roam this world. Unfortunately for them, the only way out is in.

“You began this story together, whether you intended to or not. You’ll end it the same way, or you won’t end it at all.”

— A. Deborah Baker

Once again, author A. Deborah Baker excels in story-telling through her mesmerizing and enthralling writing style, naturally capturing an amusing tone that perfectly fits with the premise of this story. Quickly, you realize that this story establishes a definitive fairytale style reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland but offers a parallel and authentic take on that narrative. The journey at hand is without a doubt captivating as both children embark on an adventure unlike anything imaginable and always has a surprising new setting to introduce and explore as you progress through the story. To further immerse the reader into this quirky journey is the introduction of various characters with unique features, voices, and motives that instantly enhance the immersion into this strange yet exquisite land.

Beyond the effortlessly laid out world that single-handedly draws in the reader and justifies the reading experience, it is through her two protagonists that author A. Deborah Baker brilliantly explores the complexity of youngsters in a cruel world and how their personalities forge their experience, either playing for or against them during perilous and trying moments. The polar opposite personalities of these two characters also capture a singular synergy between these two allies who have to learn the hard way to work together if they are to survive this adventure. With the underlying life lessons cleverly and beautifully interspersed into the narrative, this simply makes for a truly endearing and entertaining tale to pick up and explore.

Over the Woodward Wall is a whimsical adventure into a tempestuous wonderland filled with subtle life lessons and room for plenty of self-discovery for two young children.

Thank you to Raincoast Books for sending me a digital copy for review!



30 thoughts on “Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker

  1. While I consider myself a bit too… ahem… seasoned to truly enjoy a middle grade book, I would not miss anything written by Seanan McGuire – and this one in particular, because of its ties with Middlegame, another book I thoroughly loved. Your mention of the author’s “”mesmerizing and enthralling writing style”” confirms me that this is a “classic” McGuire and that I would without doubt enjoy it very much.
    Thanks for sharing!!!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha I thought the same until I realized that some MG books can say a lot with so little and that’s why I’m remaining open to the idea of exploring them. But like you’ve mentioned, it’s especially because it’s Seanan McGuire that it was a no brainer to pick this up! 😛 When I realized the link to Middlegame it had, it was even easier for me to want this and I’m glad to confirm that it turned out pretty good! 😀 Thank you so much for reading, Maddalena!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been feeling a strange pull lately for stories that seem to fall into the middle grade range. Not sure why, perhaps a desire to look back at my life during those times. This looks to perfectly fit what I’ve been imagining reading. Great review, Lashaan. Thanks for waking me up to this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally understand. I feel like I missed out on a lot of excellent MG classics growing up, having really started reading during my teenage years. I sort of want to revisit that category just to know where the good MG stories are at. I hope you get to try this one, or even the adult fantasy Middlegame that it superficially connects to! Thanks for reading, Todd! 😀


    1. I haven’t been familiar with this artist. The concept seems interesting enough to add it to my list. What I am wondering though are the small concept just sad interesting as the big ones?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am actually not that keen on Alice in Wonderland, but normally that I quite enjoy stories about entering parallel worlds. It does sound like a wonderful story and it also sounds like there is a moral message about having to overcome your differences and work together. That message wouldn’t go amiss amongst grown-ups either these days…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can see why Alice might not work for everyone hahah I think I’ve seen so many variations of the characters and the story throughout my life, before having finally read it a couple of years ago, that it made it easier for me to appreciate the concept of it hahah What I liked here is how those very moral messages are accessible to kids but are brilliant for adults too! Refreshingly insightful! Thanks for reading, as always! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review, Lashaan, it actually makes me intrigued in the book – but only mildly, my previous experiences with McGuire were rather discouraging, and I already tried three times, and still no charm 😉 So even though you bring up Alice in Wonderland, which I love, I think I’m going to give this one a pass, at least for now. I’m happy to worked so well for you, though!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great review, Lashaan! It sounds like a very refreshing book, and I feel like we all have both of these personalities in us – some leaning more towards one or the other of cours! The “Alice in Wonderland” vibes are definitely intriguing! I have never heard of Seanan McGuire before, but this makes me very curious to try one of her books! Thanks for sharing 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Juliette! I also find that the contrasting personalities really make it clear for Middle-Grade readers how everyone is different and that there’s always something to learn from one another. I honestly didn’t expect the Alice in Wonderland vibes but it was very refreshing, especially with the wordplay and the quirky dialogues! I hope you get the chance to try out one of her books (she has so many pseudonyms too) someday! Thanks, as always, for reading, Juliette! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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