cover image The Tree and the River

The Tree and the River

Aaron Becker. Candlewick, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5362-2329-3

In this spectacular wordless tale that takes a long view of time’s passing, Becker (Journey) spotlights a single tree’s life cycle against a changing backdrop of human conflicts, technological change, and natural events. On the bank of a winding river where the light is clear and brilliant, a young tree grows, and diminutive figures raise a structure nearby. A pastoral existence soon gives way to a fortified building on the riverbank, and humans clothed in red and blue seem to prepare for war. A page turn reveals the results: the castle is destroyed, the tree remains, and a city grows up amid the ruins. Technology arrives, with railways and steampunk-style airships; then an industrial landscape, in which gloom pervades the atmosphere; and a futuristic, artificially illuminated night. The tree, its great limbs spreading, is languishing. Another page turn suggests cataclysm as the river runs high and the tree is almost submerged. But an acorn drops—and life persists, starting the cycle anew. In a sweeping, carefully detailed work that’s visually reminiscent of Anno’s Journey, Becker distills a lengthy timeline into bite-size rises and falls whose beats offer hope and solace for the long term. Ages 5–9. (Mar.)