Potok disappoints in his first children's book, an ill-pitched story that addresses the need for certain constants in a changing world. Jason is deeply upset when his parents announce that the family is moving--for the third time in five years. Although his friends and Mr. Healy the gardener offer support, it is the dogwood in his yard that gives Jason the most solace: ``This tree makes me feel like I'm growing roots. It makes me feel like I'm really here,'' he says. Seeing a face in the expressive, craggy bark, Jason confides his thoughts to the tree and, in turn, listens as the tree whispers its ``secret feelings.'' His character is amorphous: young enough to believe in talking trees, old enough to go to an ice cream parlor with just his friends, worldly enough to expect that he and his friends won't correspond (``They all knew that boys their age hardly ever wrote one another''). Auth deserves credit for rendering the tree as companionable instead of menacing, especially in a fantastical night scene during which Jason experiences the tree moving across the lawn, reaching into the house with its branches and embracing him. But Auth's art is frequently jarring and seems to nod at animated cartoons: for example, the emptiness said to ``invade'' the house is represented by white, textbook-style arrows. Don't go out on a limb for this one. Ages 5-9. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1993 Release date: 09/01/1993 Genre: Children's
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