by Loren Long
Published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) (October 27, 2015)
My Rating: 4 Stars
Change is hard – especially when you’re little. There’s no telling what will happen when we let go of what we know and what we’re comfortable with. The unknown is terrifying.
Little Tree by Loren Long is a fable about having the courage to let go in order to grow. In the beginning, Little Tree is surrounded by other trees just like him – young with green leaves. The squirrels and the birds play in his branches. Autumn arrives and it’s time to drop his leaves, but Little Tree holds on to them because he’s afraid of what might happen. Season after season, the animals of the forest do their best to convince Little Tree to drop his leaves. They try to reason with him and encourage him, but Little Tree is too afraid. When Little Tree realizes that all of the trees around him have grown much taller and he can no longer hear the birds singing or feel the sunlight, he finally gathers up the courage to drop his leaves. It isn’t easy – it’s the middle of winter and it’s cold. But, spring arrives and Little Tree starts to grow.
The moral of this sweet story is sure to be appreciated by many adults, since it’s something we grapple with throughout our lives. The story could almost be told entirely by the illustrations. They’re simple and appealing, yet highly emotive. The changing of the seasons and what Little Tree is experiencing are both quite clear, as is the concern of the forest animals.
The final line of the story may be a little confusing to young listeners/readers. The reuse of the very first words of the story requires a true understanding of the contextual meanings of the word “once.” This isn’t just a story that happened sometime in the past. Little Tree is no longer what he once was. This subtle wordplay can obviously be explained by the adult reader, but it is still a bit jarring. It brought my mind back to the beginning of the story, which is not where I wanted to be. I would have rather stayed in the emotional sweet spot of seeing Little Tree all grown up.
Also, if you’re looking for a book about the changes of the season, this book is not for you. There are obvious scientific inconsistencies, and that is because it is a fable, not a work of non-fiction.
Overall, the illustrations make Little Tree an enjoyable story. And, it’s a good story to have around as a reminder for everyone in your family that change and growth can be difficult, but they’re worth it.
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