Monday, September 7, 2009

One Way to Remember Birthdays . . . .

The Birthday Tree by Paul Fleischman, illustrated by Barry Root. Candlewick, $16.99, Ages 7-9

Jack’s father was a sailor who left the sea with his wife, after losing three sons to the waves. To honor Jack’s birth, his parents plant an apple tree.
As Jack grows, so does the tree. His parents notice the apple tree seems to reflect Jack and his moods and his health. When Jack leaves home, his parents watch the apple tree to understand what’s happening with Jack.
When a meadowlark perches on the tree, they think he’s traveling over land, when it’s a gull, he’s sailing the sea. When the apple pies are sweet, Jack’s happy, but when lightening strikes the tree, the sailor father and his wife become concerned.
Newbery Medal award winner Fleischman often begins a story asking “what if . . . .” which is true for this lyrical mythic tale. Illustrator Root uses earth-toned watercolors in a careful mix of large and small images. Oval paintings on several pages are used to capture the shape of the seasonal tree, emphasizing its importance. With careful use of light and dark, the artist has crafted timeless paintings to accompany a powerful family story, with a twist of magic.

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