The Girl Who Talked To Trees

The Girl Who Talked to Trees
Natasha Farrant, illustrated by Lydia Corry
Zephyr

Olive is eleven, so shy that she is overwhelmed when she has to talk to people but is comfortable talking to trees especially her old oak in the meadow. Said oak tree is four hundred years old and in great danger from Olive’s father, Sir Sydney. He has resolved to build a new summerhouse in the meadow so that he can impress friends when they visit. When Olive learns of this, so distressed is she that she finds the courage to speak out in defence of her precious friend oak. Surprised by his daughter he gives her until teatime to think of something more impressive than his proposed summerhouse and if she can, he promises not to cut down the oak. With that he departs for the day leaving Olive with just seven hours to come up with something. Full of determination, she dashes outside to think and falls asleep beneath her oak tree.

Thus, fuelled by arboreal magic, begins a truly wonderful adventure wherein Olive listens to a series of enchanting interlinked stories told by seven different trees from various parts of the world (one for each hour she has) every one at a particular stage in its development. She finds herself scaling ivy to the topmost branches of an oak and helping a prince; then she hears in turn tales told by a linden tree, an alder, a London plane, a wild apple, a tulip tree and finally a grudge-bearing box tree. She hears of such things as mermaids, a storyteller who shows a duchess something unexpected, sisters escaping from unwanted marriages

and more, each imbued with the stuff of fairy tales as well as crucial messages about conservation and especially, the vital role of trees to our planet.

Between each is a superbly illustrated double spread giving information about the next tree to regale Olive and readers with its story. Both these and the colour illustrations throughout the narrative are the gorgeous work of Lydia Corry, helping to make Natasha Farrant’s stories within a story, a book that will delight lovers of the natural world, fairy tales and captivating literature. If you want to know whether Olive succeeds in saving her oak, you’ll need to get a copy so I suggest you buy to keep and buy to give.

(The botanist in me noticed that the Linden is misnamed as Talia, not Tilia and several of the trees given both genus and species names have capital letters at the beginning of both eg Liriodendron Tulipifera rather than Liriodendron tulipifra – a shame in such a super book).

The Pirate Mums

The Pirate Mums
Jodie Lancet-Grant and Lydia Corry
Oxford Children’s Books

Arrr! me’arties, here’s a rousing tale of derring do that takes place on a school trip with a difference.

Billy isn’t overly keen when he learns that his mums have volunteered to join Mr Smart’s class on their seaside trip. His mums however can’t wait and despite their son’s best efforts to put them off, come the morning of the outing, they’re up with the lark (rather the parrot), raring to go and there’s no stopping them.

At the coast, Billy leaves them and joins his pals right away and then it’s ‘anchors away’ and off they sail.

All of a sudden Mama is alert to the black clouds the boat is heading straight towards but her attempts to inform Mr Smart come to nothing: he’s too busy throwing up. As the storm worsens a bolt of lightning does for the main mast and panic ensues among the children.

With Captain Fishface stuck in the loo …

it’s time for Billy’s mums to take charge and pretty soon with some sacrifices of the children’s clothing, expert knotting from the pirate mums and a few deft moves from Birdbrain, there’s a new sail ready to catch the wind. But still the boat remains stuck.

Never fear, the pirate mums are here and along with plenty of willing assistants they soon have the craft heading for harbour.

Could it be time for Billy to have a change of heart about wanting to be part of an ‘ordinary’ family?

What a smashing read aloud: told with a spirited text from debut picture book author Jodie Lancet-Grant and suitably dramatic illustrations by Lydia Corry, this is a splendid, open-hearted celebration of difference and families with same sex parents.