The Floating Orchard

Troon Harrison, Author, Miranda Jones, Illustrator
Troon Harrison, Author, Miranda Jones, Illustrator Tundra Books (NY) $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-88776-439-4
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Harrison's (The Dream Catcher) disjointed tale focuses on the winds of change. Damson has always lived in a valley surrounded by her great-grandmother's plum trees, the tallest of which, the ""Orchard Queen,"" is said to possess magical properties. When a flood threatens, Damson builds a boat that she completes with the aid of a stranger named Bartlett, a sort of Johnny Appleseed of pears, who persuades her to chop down the Orchard Queen for a mast. Together they load up the vessel with animals (like Noah's arc) and sail to safety. As homesick Damson's tears water the mast, it revives and sprouts leaves. A daughter, Anjou Victoria, is born to Damson, presumably fathered by Bartlett (though the narrative never describes a romance, the paintings show the couple in amicable poses). The book circles back to its beginnings, as the girl echoes Damson's opening words, ""This is where I was born and where I will always live"" but ends on an arch noteD""She didn't know yet that life is full of surprises."" The story line seems constructed in the service of the theme and thus the narrative grows tedious (including the twee conceit of naming the characters after fruit varieties). Australian artist Jones soaks the pages fittingly in watery blues and greens, but the characters' faces are either misshapen or hidden from readers; borders hung like bright banners decorated with fruit, blossoms and heart motifs underscore a greeting-card quality. Ages 7-10. (Jan.)
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