cover image The Searcher and Old Tree

The Searcher and Old Tree

David M. McPhail, . . Charlesbridge, $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-58089-223-0

In characteristically accomplished pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations and a heavily metaphorical text, McPhail (Sylvie & True ) relates a tale about feeling safe and protected, no matter what. Searcher, a raccoon, makes his home in Old Tree, whose trunk is distinguished by eyes, nose and mouth. Vignettes show Searcher scavenging for food at night, then ambling back to Old Tree at dawn, falling asleep just before a terrible storm wreaks its havoc: “The wind shrieks. The waves explode. Old Tree holds firm. The Searcher sleeps on.” McPhail’s art gradually expands to fill the entire spread to show the storm at its worst, then recedes back to vignettes as “the wind and waves relent” and the Searcher wakes up and goes forth for the evening, oblivious to the past day’s tempest until he notices the wetness of the grass and the presence of broken branches; when he turns back to look at his sanctuary, Old Tree “waves” to him comfortingly. Developmentally, this story seems a little off-base; kids might not want to identify with a protagonist who snoozes through the most exciting, if scary part of the story; and, ironically, they might find the while-you-were-sleeping problem-solving more disconcerting than reassuring. Ages 3-6. (Feb.)