Wednesday 25 November 2020

The Tree

The Tree
by Graeme Base (Puffin) HB RRP $24.99 9781760897048

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

The words ‘sumptuous’ and ‘exquisite’ spring to mind when one turns the pages of this beautiful picture book by one of Australia’s world-renown and most talented illustrators. In fact, I gasped when I turned a page – to see the double page spread of a (woolly) cow inside a turret, up among the branches of the central tree with other creatures: it is absolutely stunning: the tree’s leaves, trunk, and branches so faithfully realistic you feel as though they you could reach out and touch them. Base, whose first picture book Animalia has achieved classic status with worldwide sales of over three million copies, has created a detailed and amazing natural world with the illustrations in his latest book.

The story, which has a positive message about sharing one’s natural environment, is about a cow and a duck who share ‘a very big tree’, full of ripe plums which Cow calls ‘mooberries’, and with toadstools, which Duck calls ‘mushquacks ’ amongst its roots. Cow builds a castle in the sky, complete with a drawbridge while Duck settles in a secret hideaway under the roots, locked behind a secret door with a secret key. They forget about each other but are drawn together when the tree is attacked by a storm, then another.

So much of this story is told pictorially. There is, for instance, a magnificent illustration of Cow and Duck, surrounded by other creatures, sitting glumly amongst the rubble of the destroyed tree with a golden moon. One could spend hours looking at this spread, and other spreads, finding so much which is not at first obvious. That the animals come from different parts of the world is a small criticism.

I cannot praise this book high enough. It is sure to win book awards and to become a classic. Highly recommended.

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