cover image The Tale of the Heaven Tree

The Tale of the Heaven Tree

Mary Joslin. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, $16 (26pp) ISBN 978-0-8028-5190-1

Part creation story, part ecological fable, this eye-catching volume extols the beauty of the natural world and emphasizes the importance of preserving it. In the various gardens created by ""the world's Great Maker,"" plants and beasts of every type flourish. Prairie gardens ""rippling with grasses"" and woodland gardens ""deep in green moss and shyly nodding bellflowers"" color the glorious landscape, while the ""warbling and whistling, tumbling, trilling melodies"" of birds fill the air. The humans, however, decide to develop more land and construct larger and larger buildings, and eventually the gardens are razed and devastated, the animals displaced, suffering or dead. A sole child, with guidance from the Great Maker, begins a regeneration of the gardens with one small seed. Joslin's (The Goodbye Boat) lyrical prose provides a portrait of paradise, and her deftly delivered message is likely to inspire young readers. But it is So's (The Beauty of the Beast: Poems from the Animal Kingdom) energetically patterned watercolors that instantly command attention. Airy, sweeping nature scenes feature wispy lines and loose brush strokes, while darker, crowded cityscapes feature intricate geometric designs. Varied compositions reflect the changing moods of the story: stacked panels show the exuberant coexistence of woodland, prairie and undersea ""gardens""; lines of copy swoop to mimic the flight of birds; narrow text blocks are shoehorned next to equally narrow skyscrapers. So's light, playful style proves an ideal counterpoint to the story's sober undercurrents. Ages 4-up. (Sept.)