Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Tree: A Fable

The Tree: A Fable

Neal Layton
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Candlewick, 2017   ISBN: 978-0763689520

On the side of a mountain there is a tall tree, standing on its own. The tree provides many different kinds of animals with a home. A bird’s nest sits high up near the top of the tree. Lower down there is a squirrel’s nest, and in the trunk of the tree a family of owls lives in a hollow. Deep beneath the tree a family of rabbits lives in a series of burrows.

What these animals don’t know is that the tree is standing on a piece of land that is for sale. One day a young couple drives up in a pickup truck that is loaded down with building supplies and tools. They have bought the land and they plan on building their dream house right where the tree is standing. The first thing that they are going to have to do is to get rid of the tree, and so they start sawing away at the trunk.

As they saw through the wood, their cuts makes the tree’s trunk vibrate. The parent owl flees from its hollow, the bird nest falls to the earth, and the rabbits rush out from their burrow and run away. The couple looks down and they see the nest full of baby birds lying on the ground. They are expecting a baby of their own and seeing the little babies in such dire straits breaks their hearts. What have they done?

All too often we humans do not see that our actions have a negative impact on the environment. We do not see the homeless animals and the scarred landscape. This incredibly simple yet powerful story shows to great effect how important it is to have compassion for all living things, and how, with a little creativity, we can cohabit with our wild animal neighbors.