This play-turned-book, imported from Finland, opens with an idealistic dove approaching a world-weary owl to help alleviate the desertification in distant Africa.
A friendly whale transports the pair across the ocean. After the mammal’s beached siblings are rescued, and the destination is reached, the dove seizes on the solution of planting trees, but where to find seeds? Enter the wind, and the mission is carried to the four corners of the earth, reaching a koala, gorilla, panda and mountain lion. These creatures carry native seeds, while a boy brings water; the teamwork produces a seedling. In addition to being earnest to a fault, the dialogue-driven narrative bogs down in length and, at times, obscurity. The cause of the predicament is never explained, although there are asides about “saying something to humans.” The repeated refrain, “the strong give the weak the power to do more / when the wind is behind them,” only makes sense in context, diminishing its potential power. Realistically rendered animals are foregrounded, as on a stage, while Rothko-like backgrounds provide an aura of fantasy. The vibrant palette, strong contrast between warm and cool tones and sophisticated layering of colors effectively convey the splendor of nature.
The exquisite visuals don’t completely rescue this environmental fable from its heavy-handed and muddled message; theater, with its energy, movement and tighter scripting, it is still the better vehicle. (organization note) (Picture book. 5-8)