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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

little tree, written and illustrated by loren long. Philomel, Penguin. 2015. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"One summer, Little Tree could no longer feel the sunlight. The squirrels played high above on the broad, tall trees. And the mourning dove sang so far away that he could hardly hear her flutey song. Autumn came again. Leaves began to blanket the ground. Little Tree looked up at the other trees ... "

Who among has not, at one time or another, been resistant to change? I know I am, and have been. Change causes stress for many. It does the same for little tree.

He is witness to the changes that are happening all around him. All of the other saplings in his part of the forest are dropping their leaves as fall has arrived. They will bear the cold of winter without any covering at all. All the leaf dropping ensures that in the following year they will continue to grow tall and be even stronger than they have been this year.

little tree doesn't see it as the others do. He doesn't want to lose his beloved leaves, so holds tightly to them. He loves those leaves and doesn't want to live without them. The forest animals are surprised and can't help but question his choice. Still, he holds on. With the arrival of spring, as the trees around him sprout new leaves, the animals wonder if he is ill. He is not.

As the seasons pass, and little tree refuses to drop his leaves, he begins to notice that he can't feel the sunlight or hear birdsong, and he remembers he was once just like the trees around him. He is ready ... he lets go and his wilted, brown leaves tumble to the snowy ground.

It takes time, but he becomes a part of the verdant, thriving forest once more.

Loren Long's text is spare, and achingly simple. That is what makes his story so beautiful. Allowing his tree to take the time to make his own decision is what makes it a standout, exactly what will draw young readers to its message. Change is hard, but inevitable.

The artwork, created in acrylic, ink and pencil, and shown on plenty of white space assures that our attention is fully captured by the tiny sapling and his unwillingness to make a change he is not ready to make. It is tough to grow up, as those of us who have done it know too well.

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