Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Birthday Tree

The Birthday Tree

Paul Fleischman
Illustrator:  Barry Root 
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Candlewick, 2008   ISBN: 978-0763626044

There once was a sailor and his wife who left their life on the sea to go and live inland. The couple had "lost three sons to the waves" and they had had enough of the sea with its insistent call and its dangers.

After walking for three days the sailor and his wife found what they were looking for, a place where they could no longer see or hear the ocean. There the couple built a little house and created a farm. Not long after, the couple had a son whom they called Jack. To celebrate his arrival they planted a little apple tree.

As Jack grew up he spent plenty of time in and around the birthday tree. As he grew tall and strong so did the tree. Jack's parents noticed that the tree and Jack seemed to mirror one another. When Jack was sad the tree drooped, and when he was happy "the limbs grew straight and proud."

Despite all their efforts to protect Jack from the sea, one day Jack ran away from home. By watching the tree his parents knew, in general terms, what their son was doing and how he was faring. When they saw a seagull perched on the top of the tree they knew that their boy has indeed gone to sea.

Over the seasons the tree did well until one day when a fierce storm blew though and the tree was struck by lightening. Jack's parents then knew that Jack's ship was in terrible difficulties. When the seagull flew away they were sure that Jack has been shipwrecked somewhere. Would their boy be safe and would he ever come home to them?

In this delightful book, award winning author Paul Fleischman not only tells a story which has a magical overtone, but he also shows his readers how precious a birthday tree can be. Even if a birthday tree is not as unique as the one which was planted on Jack's birthday, it is still a very special thing for a child to have in its life. Paul Fleishman beautifully captures the powerful link that can exist between a child and a tree.

Beautiful illustrations and a meaningful text combine to produce a book which will give readers great pleasure.