THE GREEN BOOK by Jill Paton Walsh


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Father said, 'We can take very little with us.'"" So begins this tale of space-age pioneers, who then travel for four years to a distant planet where they will try to establish a colony. Others, in more sophisticated ships, are headed still further. (Walsh doesn't say why the earth is being abandoned, but the problem seems to be slow atmospheric change, not nuclear destruction.) Each passenger is allowed one book, and Father chooses a fat Dictionary of Technology. A plain mechanic on earth, he plans to be ""the contriver,"" and thus an important person, at Shine, the new home. Daughter Sarah reprimands Father, reminding him that everyone here counts equally--a conversation that might seem to foreshadow a larger conflict, but doesn't. Father's skills and his book do prove useful, however, as the people build dwellings of split ""trees"" which aren't at all like wood. All the vegetation in fact turns out to be shiny and clear like glass, and the glassy grass kills the rabbits brought from earth. When vegetables from earth seeds fail, and then the wheat also grows hard and faceted, the colonists despair: once their imported rations are gone, there will be ""only a box of pills that would be kinder than hunger."" But then Sarah undertakes to grind and cook the glassy wheat; and when she and brother Joe and little sister Patti eat it and survive, the colony is saved. It will also have a history, for Patti's one book has been a blank one, and when Father opens it at the end he begins to read: ""Father said, 'We can take very little with us.'"" With descriptions of life on Shine, and with a fluttery passage wherein friendly giant moths hatch out and dance with the children before flying off, the book (Patti's and Walsh's) is written in the stately, solemn manner of an important chronicle. If you can accept this as such, it is expertly done; but readers seeking imaginative speculation, philosophic ideas, or glimpses of the future will be disappointed.

Pub Date: July 7th, 1982
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux