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THE LAST TREE by Ingrid Chabbert


by Ingrid Chabbert ; illustrated by Guridi

Pub Date: April 4th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-77138-728-6
Publisher: Kids Can

Chabbert imagines a world without trees—until friends discover a sapling.

This first-person narrative establishes the speaker as a grown-up remembering a story from his father’s youth, then describing his own. The elder man loved playing in the grass; Guridi’s field fills two thirds of the vertical space on the double-page spread. The verdant scene contrasts with the 13 green blades in the gray concrete jungle surrounding the son. It is a friend who shows him the young tree, doomed, it is revealed, due to the imminent construction of luxury condos. The boys rescue the tender growth, replanting it far away. Aspects of the charcoal, ink, gouache, pencil, and digital art are reminiscent of Oliver Jeffers’ work—the boys’ blue and orange silhouettes with large heads and slender bodies, the collage elements. Ultimately readers learn that “Years later…. / I had grown. / The tree had, too.” There is a clear message about the superiority of nature to the man-made, but the text sometimes seems aimed at adults more than children. The ending is confusing (the boys do not appear to have grown at all); it is neither logical nor very hopeful—there is only the one, titular, last tree.

The beauty and majesty of deciduous trees seem to bring out the philosopher in many authors, resulting in a wealth of options for exploring growth and environmental responsibility. This is not a first choice.

(Picture book. 4-6)