Stunning mixed media artwork sets the scene for an exploration of the secret life of trees in this thoughtful and rewarding non-fiction picturebook.
By taking a daily walk near her Devon studio, painter and illustrator Emma Carlisle learned to see trees as individuals with their own stories to tell and hopes this book will inspire others to look more closely at the natural world.
Powered by one child’s curiosity about her local area – ‘What do you see when you look at a tree? Leave and twigs and branches?’- Carlisle’s rhyming text swoops up and out to embrace wider themes as it leads us on a tree-themed journey across time and space. Carefully curated scientific facts are presented in a way that encourages empathy, mindfulness and personal growth (‘What has a tree seen over hundreds of years? Who else made a home in its arms?’) and this fusion of intellectual and emotional insight is one of the key features of the book.
The artwork is delightful, too. Watercolour washes in a warm, natural palette are brought to life with pencil details to create an inviting visual world. Diverse characters (including a wheelchair user in one of the later vignettes) are physically and emotionally expressive, and subjects include the changing seasons in a rural setting, the comfort and love of home and family, and the wonder of the natural world. Standout spreads include a peek into the long life of a mature tree, with snapshots of the families that interacted with it, and ‘How to be more like a tree’ which links tree-knowledge to our own self-care. Carlisle shows and suggests, rather than instructing her audience, but there is plenty of information on offer, and much to enjoy and remember on every page.
This beautifully printed and bound picturebook is published in association with The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and will appeal to a wide age range.