A tree in a deep rural clearing proves to be a small village in jeopardy.
On a piece of land for sale deep in the rolling, uninhabited hills of somewhere, there grows a fine evergreen, which stands tall on recto. On verso, readers see a couple (maybe up to six) words in size 72 font: “A tree, // a bird’s nest,” and so on as pages turn until readers have met the owls, the squirrels, and the rabbits who burrow down in the tree’s roots. Along comes a white couple, with blueprints. Red flag. The plot is small, and the tree stands in the middle of it. Out comes the two-man saw (though in this case it is a one-man-one-woman saw), until the man and woman realize there is a significant community above (and below, knowing rabbits). Evident in the illustrations but not explicit in the text, the plans are changed. (Layton has given the illustrations an old-time feel, the pen-and-wash pictures by turns moody, loose, and substantial.) Suddenly the tree is bandaged, the various animal abodes repaired, and a balconied treehouse now sits snugly about halfway up. Harmony is not brain surgery, Layton’s story suggests; there are no squatters in nature, just those who inhabit.
A feather-light tribute to finding common ground—or make that common air space. (Picture book. 2-5)