'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 18 May 2023

Review: Big Tree

This fresh, inspiring book is big of heart, big of scope and big of weight! A stunning hardcover novel of over 500 pages with images and words, it’s almost indefinable in its breadth. And although it’s listed as fantasy/fiction for children, this is one of those warming books that is absolutely appropriate for all ages to enjoy and discuss. A surprisingly simple and quick read, with massive themes and characters that hold your hand through the turbulence, Big Tree is one for all ages.

‘Hello stars. I thought I heard you calling me.’

These lines along with two gorgeous pictures, open the narrative and welcome us into the story. Louise has been dreaming of the world beyond her home. As fate would have it, she and her brother Merwin find themselves cast out into the big wide world when a forest fire rips through and takes the life of their Mama tree.

Yes, this is a story about two tiny sycamore seeds on an adventure. And you’ll love them! Our protagonists have listened intently to Mama tree’s wisdom and advice about survival and thriving, and are well equipped for life away from their familiar home, even though they don’t feel ready. And so, they are cast off on an adventure.

This epic story wraps itself around climate change, evolution, survival, resilience, mystery, family and community from the differing points of view of two sibling seeds. Sounds preposterous, doesn’t it! But it totally works and is profoundly affecting.

Endorsed by Steven Spielberg and narrated as an audiobook by Meryl Streep, this visionary tale is an immersive and engaging experience which turns many literary conventions on their heads. The physical book is substantial to sit with, containing almost 300 breath-taking black and white illustrations rendered in pencil and smudgy crayon, on textured surfaces. The artworks sometimes drive the narrative, and at other times serve as a backdrop to the words.

And the words - what words they be! Poetry, prose, dialogue, philosophy and humour are all rolled into a captivating story that is by turns charming, heart-breaking and funny. Short chapters within a clever book design mean that sometimes we see one line on a page of pure white, and at other times, a cacophony of words with detailed imagery cluttering the page.

Like the proverbial box of chocolates, you never quite know what you’ll get! The one sure thing is the great impetus to keep turning pages.

This book follows its own path in a hopeful and reassuring way to stand uniquely, strongly, as a shining light of possibility and liberation.

It’s magnificent. 

Big Tree
Author/Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Publisher: Scholastic, $32.99
Publication Date: March 2023
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781338180633
For ages: 7 - 12
Type: Graphic Novel