cover image Little Tree

Little Tree

Loren Long. Philomel, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-399-16397-5

All the saplings around Little Tree eagerly shed their leaves each fall, even if it means having to endure the winter chill with bare branches; there’s no other way they can grow tall and strong, and fulfill their role in the forest community. But Little Tree is having none of it, even when his leaves turn droopy and brown. “What would he do without his leaves?” writes Long (the Otis series), adding, in what becomes the book’s poignant refrain, “Little Tree just hugged his leaves tight.” It’s the kind of parable that could turn preachy and soggy very quickly, but Long makes it work; in fact, his willingness to take his time and even test the audience’s patience with his arboreal hero’s intransigence results in an ending that’s both a big relief and an authentic triumph. Childhood is full of big, difficult transitions; Long’s earnest-eloquent narrative voice and distilled, single-plane drawings, both reminiscent of an allegorical pageant, acknowledge the reality of the struggle while offering the promise of brighter days ahead. Ages 5–8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Sept.)