Review Blog

Feb 18 2013

The boy who grew into a tree by Gary Crew

cover image

Ill. by Ross Watkins. Penguin, 2012. ISBN 9780670076734.
(Age: 8+) Recommended. An old couple came from the old country and not finding a warm welcome built themselves a hut in the mountains. The old man sold ferns for bedding and his wife gathered herbs and mushrooms from the wilderness. The townspeople bought their wares but didn't trust them. After a refreshing storm the old woman finds herself expecting a baby that they called Arbour. He was a strange child, nut brown, speaking in whispers like the wind in the leaves and stretching his arms like a tree. Then one day a terrible fire caused devastation.
I always expect something thought provoking when I pick up a book by Gary Crew and this is no exception. Themes of prejudice and mistrust as well as loyalty and love of the bush permeate the story which reads like a fairy tale. The power of the bush to regenerate itself after a fire and to renew itself after rain is vividly described.
Ross Watkin's stunning illustrations are like those found in a book about botany. Beautiful black and white lines and shadings show the dark forest, mushrooms and plants. The only colour is the red of the fire destroying the forest. There are beautiful endpaper to examine as well.
This is a book with themes to think about. Astute teacher and teacher librarians will be able to use it when discussing the environment and the power of story telling.
Pat Pledger

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