THE GREAT DIMPOLE OAK by Janet Taylor Lisle


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As imaginatively depicted in Gammell's fine drawings, an ancient tree represents a playground and possible site for buried treasure to local children; a monument to townsfolk; a holy ""center"" to a Tibetan swami; and a recapitulation of history and his life to the farmer who owns it. Following these characters on their parallel journeys, Lisle brings them together in a concluding celebration. Overbearing Mrs. George Trawley has organized a rally to save the tree (which is in no danger) from its aged, neglected owner. This frail farmer, who has always delighted children with his stories, hopes for a surprise birthday party from the descendants who have forgotten him. The swami has had a vision of the tree and arrives after a comic journey with his followers, who include peacocks and goats. The boys have weathered a bout with diamond fever and are ready to act as intermediaries between the falsely maligned farmer and his neighbors. There's pungent satire (some of it perilously close to stereotype) and entertaining slapstick here, mixed with wry wisdom--even horrid Mrs. Trawley has human qualities. Unlike Aiken's farces, this doesn't quite hang together: the bits about the swami seem to be fantasy in an otherwise realistic story where the humor derives from exaggeration and caricature; the farmer's story comes close to a tragedy that is not dealt with. Fun, but the whole seems less than the sum of its parts.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1987
Page count: 135pp
Publisher: Orchard/Watts