Tree by Claire Saxby and Jess Racklyeft

cover image

A stunning look at a tree, from its roots to the upper branches, its bark and leaves, the animals that live on and in it and depend upon it for their survival.

The opening pages are stunning, welcoming the reader to peer through the mists of the morning to spy the tree, older than us, younger than the earth it springs from. As each page is turned new information is given about the tree: the tree breathes in the air we breathe out, its roots share food, birds, like a lyrebird, thrush, wren etc scratch the litter beneath for their meal, lizards and echidnas use its undergrowth for their survival. Rain feeds the trees, pools attracting birds and animals: the treecreeper, rosellas and possums all call it home, and at night possums come out from their hollow, a glider surveys the night sky, while down on the ground, a wombat tears at the grass, wallabies thump by, a bush rat digs and a boo-boo owl swoops. 

Water is taken up by the tree so it grows, but quietly the night is over. Eventually the tree will die and fall over, its form giving shelter again to small animals, insects and birds as the cycle begins anew.

The most beautiful of illustrations adorn each page, using a multiplicity of techniques, including water colour and pencil, to give the reader an intimate knowledge of the image presented in the text. The eye-catching cover will draw in the readers, then opening they will find wonderful endpapers, enough to encourage the readers to go out and collect leaves to try and draw them themselves. The mist on the first double page covers most of the mountain and eager eyes will try and find the one tree, the mountain ash, that the book is about. Pages following show different aspects of the tree, an underground look at its roots and the activity there, a close look at the leaf litter at the base of the tree, visions of the sky as a range of birds fly overhead, and stunning images of the forest at night. Readers will love checking out the detail, finding the animals mentioned in the text, seeking out other animals, while a fold out page at the end of the book has a poster sized image of the tree sure to be wondered at. A vision to behold, this book impels kids to get outside and look at those in their neighbourhood with a clearer understanding of how indebted we are to these magnificent trees.

Themes: Environment, Trees, Survival, Animals, Birds, STEM.

Fran Knight