Penguin Random House
April 2, 2019
Once Grandfather lived at the top of a mountain next to the tallest tree. Even down in the village market his house was a landmark for all to see but as the land changed so did Grandfather’s life. In those days he told stories to his family and was very happy. Now he lives in a city apartment block with his family and a loving grandchild and his stories are silenced, his eyes are sad he mourns the loss of his traditional past. Down in the market, the apartment is indistinguishable from its neighbours. It is just one more dwelling among thousands with not a sign of green nature anywhere.
Then one day the small grandchild finds a tiny seedling triumphantly sprouting betweens cracks in the hard surface of the market and, wanting to rescue and protect it, takes it home because “Grandfather will know what to do.”
As that small tree defies odds and continues to grow under the care of grandfather and grandson, another is added and then another until their apartment balcony is filled with green and even from the market it is easy to see their home. Neighbours are enchanted by the greenery and soon begin to add their own trees on balconies until finally almost the entire neighbourhood of bleak barren buildings is transformed into an oasis in a busy city.
This is a beautiful narrative of love, family, resilience and nature. One senses that there could be a very personal back story to this new book and Bruce Whatley’s stunning illustrations capture perfectly the sense of Chinese culture in a linocut style.
This is a splendid picture book which I would predict will be firmly and rightfully placed in award lists in the coming year.
Highly recommended for young readers from around six years upwards.