Review: The Family Tree by David McPhail

family tree

The Family Tree by David McPhail

This is the story of a very special tree.  It was left standing when the rest of the space was cleared to build a house many years ago.  This tree would shelter the little house.  It witnessed many changes over the years as horse and wagon changed to cars.  There were births and deaths on the farm, until finally it was the great-great grandson of the original building of the home who lived there.  The tree still stood, strong and straight.  But then it was threatened as a new road was planned that would run right through it.  The grandson refused to let the tree be cut down, and wild animals join him to keep it from happening.  So the road plans must be changed and the tree continues to grow now by the large bend in the road.

There is something to be said about a picture book that decides to tell the story that feels right, the one that resounds in your bones, rather than the one that would happen in real life.  When I saw the bulldozers in the book, I braced myself for heartache, or for the story to turn into that of growing a new tree from an acorn that originated with this tree.  But instead McPhail told a story for tree lovers of all ages, who wish that there were bends in the big highways to keep huge old trees alive. 

McPhail’s writing is simple and straight-forward.  He tells the story with a great matter-of-fact tone that belies the wildlife appearing and the wonder of the tree standing.  His art is signature McPhail with its fine ink lines and watercolor softness.  It has both the clarity of the modern day and the softness of memories.

Get this into the hands of those who hug trees.  They are guaranteed to love it.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Company.