In a natural-world version of Leo Tolstoy’s short story “The Three Questions,” a boy goes in search of the perfect tree to chop for firewood and finds much more.
Jack sets out in the early morning with his ax. But each tree is too wide or spooky or silly or even familiar. Just when he begins to lose heart, a woodpecker invites him to see its perfect tree—one filled with its bird friends. A squirrel’s perfect tree is an oak filled with acorns and berries for winter, and a spider’s is festooned with a bejeweled web. During the storm that suddenly strikes, Jack’s perfect tree is a sheltering willow, and he comes to the realization that “Every tree in the forest is perfect.” Leaving his ax behind, he heads home, the next day searching for the perfect tree “to climb…to draw…to love.” While Bonfield’s text is adequate, her artwork shines as something distinctive among picture books. A combination of three-dimensional pieces, digital and collaged elements, and found textures, the illustrations are a moody, atmospheric mix of shadows and light. Many times Jack and the animals are seen in black profile against a natural backdrop, perspectives changing to show close-ups and others putting Jack and the animals in correct proportion to the forest around them.
A gorgeous reminder that the natural world is perfect and worthy of notice. (Picture book. 4-8)