What Did the Tree See?
Charlotte Guillain and Sam Usher
Oak trees are wondrous things. With its spreading branches to climb and a resident owl, I was endlessly fascinated as a child by the large one growing in our garden. They’re also well known for their exceptionally long life spans.
Not primarily a natural history book but rather, using the oak as a chronicler of the landscape wherein it grows, Charlotte Guillain has written a sequence of verses telling how an unnamed place somewhere in the UK has grown from a small village in the days of yore
to a vast industrial coastal city.
From its beginning ‘I was first an acorn, so tiny and round, / I fell from a branch and sank into the ground. / Then as I grew up, I turned into a tree … / over hundreds of years! So what did I see?’ Sam Usher’s fine illustrations make evident what it did see, showing just how much a landscape is altered by the action of humans,
in stark contrast to the oak, the life cycle of which we witness both in words and pictures.
The final few pages chronicle significant events in world history and their dates occurring during the life span of our narrating oak, the life cycle of an oak tree and suggestions for children to investigate the history of their own locality, as well as finding out more about trees and the life they might support.
With its unusual approach, this is an engrossing book to share and talk about with primary age children. I particularly like the way the oak’s own story comes full circle.
Moreover it could be an absolute boon for home-schooling parents (COVID even gets a mention in the timeline.)