The Warty Tree that stands apart seems to whisper and beckon as the young narrator walks in the park. When he, or possibly she (gender is ambiguous like much in this story), approaches, the ‘cold, hard hands’ of the little sprite who lives in the Warty Tree reach out to drag him in. They climb to the top of the tree where the sight of his dog waiting on the ground breaks the hold of the Sprite, and the narrator chooses to return to the dog, the adults who accompany him and their young baby whose appearance resembles that of the Sprite. The adults look quite different from the older child – he is blond while they are dark and possibly Asian – and they seem more concerned with the baby. This gives the story layers of possible meaning. Are the adults not his parents? And is the encounter with the Sprite an imaginative journey, possibly triggered by jealous feelings towards the baby? These are complex questions and may be bewildering for a young audience, but then, children are often much better than adults at constructing meaning in narrative.
The illustrations’ somewhat tremulous line and pastel tones also heighten the sense of the uncanny in this rather unsettling story that demands several readings, and even then, leaves questions looking for answers.