Grow, Tree, Grow!

Authored by Dom Conlon
Illustrated by Anastasia Izlesou
Published by Graffeg

Tagged , , ,

Grow, Tree, Grow! is the fifth in the Wild Wanderer series exploring the broad canvas that makes up our natural world and in this instance is more of a journey through time rather than through places. The richness of the beautiful narrative and the sumptuous illustrations transport the reader, or listener, to the world of an oak tree and its ecosystem, providing home, shelter and food to a diverse community of creatures. 

Dom Conlon and Anastasia Izlesou have collaborated to convey a concept through words and pictures in a book that is inspiring and perfect for encouraging a sense of wonder in children. The text is a beautiful balance of information and rhythmic narrative. Following on from the familiar approach of the previous books in the series Conlon uses poetic tools to bring ideas and facts to life in a way that sparks the imagination and interest. The language is lyrical and as you read this aloud the use of kennings, similes, metaphors and onomatopoeia creates a natural ebb and flow that is perfect for the subject matter.

Ground-breaker, air-taster Tree pushes its way through the soil.’ From this opening the reader follows the tiny seedling, as it progresses over one thousand years, learning as we read how the oak nurtures and provides. We meet deer feeding beneath its branches, beetles, caterpillars, rabbits among the roots and woodpeckers, squirrels and bats in the branches. The structure of the tree, its rings added year on year, the acorns providing both food and continuity are all mentioned and depicted as the tree grows ever stronger season by season. The repeated refrain, ‘But branch is to sky as root is to earth so grow, Tree, grow!’ has the feel of a song or prayer and provides an added sense of respect and importance. There is mention of other trees and of man’s impact on the environment however the text concentrates on the oak and its place in the cycle of life in a manner that is both hopeful and informative. 

Izlesou’s gorgeous illustrations in green, brown and ochre hues pair perfectly with the narrative and the endpapers depicting the bark of the tree set the tone for the book that is to come. There is a visual flow to the pictures that matches the natural rhythm of the text and each page turn awakens the reader’s interest. As the narrative ends, we discover a wordless double page spread that invites further thought and conversation about the natural world and our place in it. The final pages provide a selection of fascinating ‘Tree Facts’ which includes points such as the tree being referred to as ‘it’ throughout the book because an oak tree is both male and female or monoecious and that the tree has senses. Grow, Tree, Grow! is a wonderful balance of lyrical wonder and learning experience and may prompt poetry writing too. It would be a valuable addition to primary school libraries and classrooms. 

You can watch and listen to Nikki Gamble in conversation with Dom Conlon and Anastasia Izlesou talking about Grow, Tree, Grow! here:

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