cover image The Family Tree

The Family Tree

David McPhail. Holt, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8050-9057-4

The continuity of family and nature and the power of a single voice resonate in McPhail’s (The Abandoned Lighthouse) thoughtful fable. Riding in a covered wagon, a man arrives in the wilderness “to start a new life.” He chops down trees to create pastures for his animals, fields for his crops, and logs for his house, but he leaves one tree standing to provide shade in summer and act as a buffer against winter winds. McPhail’s understated, homespun watercolor-and-ink illustrations effectively portray the passage of time, as cars replace horses on the road near the tree. The day finally comes when workers arrive to widen the road—and fell the tree. The original settler’s great-great-grandson, a small boy in overalls, resolutely stands in front of the tree in protest: “Not this tree.” Soon, the boy is joined by a bevy of forest animals; together they stare down the workers, who relent and reroute the road around the tree. A sentimental but inspirational tale. Ages 4–8. Agent: Faith Hamlin, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Mar.)