The author of the popular Otis series tells a story about a tree that is heartwarming and encouraging. Little Tree is happy as he stands with the other little trees in the forest. Squirrels play in his branches and a mourning dove stops by. Autumn arrives and the leaves of the little tree change color along with those on the other little trees. The leaves began to fall, except for those on Little Tree. He held onto his tightly. The animals start to ask him why he is holding onto his leaves so long, but Little Tree just holds them even tighter. Spring comes and the other trees are taller and filled with bright green leaves. Little Tree though has only his old brown leaves. The other trees continue to grow around Little Tree, the animals no longer played in his branches, and he just held on ever more tightly. Little Tree would have to figure out how to let go and allow change to happen.
This parable is beautifully told. The parallel between a tree not dropping its leaves and allowing seasons to pass and a human fighting the inevitable changes and progress in life is compelling. Young readers will see clearly how stunted the life of Little Tree becomes and how quickly he loses the very parts of his existence that he loves so much. The writing is simple and straight-forward, making this a very shareable book that could lead to a discussion about what children are holding onto that they may want to release and let go.
Long’s illustrations are luminous on the page. He makes great use of white space, allowing Little Tree to shine on the page in a simple and engaging way. Other pages use double spreads, showing the changing forest as it grows around Little Tree. This too is very effective.
A strong picture book with an important message that is cleverly told, this book encourages young readers to embrace change and the uncertainties of life. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from ARC received from Philomel Books.