Apple and Magnolia

Apple and Magnolia
Laura Gehl and Patricia Metola
Walker Books

Britta insists that her two favourite trees Apple and Magnolia are best friends; this she knows deep down inside herself and there’s no swaying her. She visits the trees every day and watches how they communicate with one another. Some members of her family tell her that trees cannot have friendships – her father speaking kindly, her elder sister Bronwyn forcibly; her Nan in contrast says, ‘unusual friendships can be the most powerful of all’.

One night Britta notices that Magnolia’s branches have started drooping. While her father and sister tell her the tree won’t survive the winter, Nana asks about a plan. This galvanises her into action. 

Aided and abetted by her pets she makes a telephone using cups connected by string for the trees to use, knits an enormous scarf and wraps it around them so they can share one another’s warmth during the chilly winter months and hangs a string of lights between Apple and Magnolia so they can always see each other.

Time passes and one morning Britta thinks that the trees have become closer together. She measures the distance between them and continues to do so every morning, getting the usual responses from family members. The arrival of spring sees pink blossom on Apple’s branches whereas Magnolia doesn’t flower, although Britta’s measurements decrease and you can’t argue with scientific data. 

Eventually the first blossom appears on Magnolia sending Britta’s hopes soaring. Soon it’s time for a celebration.

The repetition of the comments, be they negative or positive heightens, the impact of the telling of this delightfully fanciful story. Not entirely fanciful however; author Laura Gehl includes this in an introductory note, ‘Scientists are just at the beginning of understanding how trees are able to communicate with and support other trees.’ Equally delightful are Patricia Metola’s whimsical illustrations of the characters, both human and arboreal.

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