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The Tree

Written and illustrated by Graeme Base

Reviewed by Sandy Driessens

Naturally, when you see a book cover with the iconic design and unmistakeable art of Graeme Base, you have to pick it up.

“The Tree … is a story of a cow, a duck and a very big tree.” Cow and Duck build their homes on and under a very big tree that provides them with their favourite food. They live oblivious to each other, until a big storm comes along that awakens them to the fact, that someone else is trying to share their home. In their greed and desire for ownership, they change the structure of the tree to create a barrier between them. Unfortunately, when another storm comes along, their changes cause the destruction of the tree. Now homeless, Cow and Duck have to co-operate with each other, but what is the result?

Of course, the illustration is magnificent with light and shade creating the mood in the story. With many double page spreads, Base’s attention to detail makes every image an adventure in searching for disguised animals, plants and items. In the perspective paintings, the tree appears to be an Australian blue quandong (with “mooberries”) though the animals are from various countries.

The text is simple prose and the story is also uncomplicated. The chosen font reflects that, though I think that a different font could have added to the beauty of the book. There is no text that describes or indicates the personalities of the characters, but that is to be found in the illustrations.

Obviously, this story is an analogy of our responsibility to care for our world and those with whom we share it. Cow and duck not only destroyed their home but also that of all the other creatures that shared it. Working together to repair our damaged environment and relationships through communication, may be the story we tell our children when we read this book.

Books about protecting our environment are and should always be popular. This is Graeme Base’s interpretation. I think it will appeal to children of all ages.

Puffin 2020

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