A girl. A tree. A tight-knit community of animals with legs, wings, fins, exoskeletons, and tails, living off nature’s bounty. It had all the trappings of a treasured children’s bedtime story. But even on the first page–well, actually, on page ‘fish’–there were signs of discord, of humans and nature at odds.
There was no script for what happened next. Not even proper page numbers. What went wrong?? Some say it was the girl. Others point fingers, fins, wings, snouts, tails, trunks, hooves and antennae at the author and illustrator. The Tree remains silent on the subject. But even The Tree’s grand silence (not to mention the apparent betrayal of the book’s title …) seems to echo what all parties involved appear to agree on–the timeless power of one universal force to unite all living things, predator, prey, and protagonist alike, despite their differences, and bestow–or impose–upon them a sense of common direction. Gravity.
Readers looking for a dystopian trilogy or a story that celebrates conventional marketing wisdom, and includes at least one of the following: 1) a dragon, 2) a dinosaur, 3) a child’s confectionery treat, 4) a market-tested message of inspiration or whimsy, or 5) a member of royalty (prince/princess rank or higher) . . . are barking up the wrong tree. The tree in this book is full of sass, animals with attitude, an unusually large number of tropical fruits, and a plucky girl who relishes a challenge, one who is willing to climb, swing, and ruffle all manner of feathers and leaves to reach the one fruit she really wants.
But this story is less about the ending than the journey. Rhymes chase each other from one line, one sentence fragment, one page to the next. And the illustrations, well, they consort, conspire and confound in the rarified air of a child’s imagination. The book deifies classification (Wait. That may be the wrong word.).