Saturday, 27 July 2013

Review: Tree Talk

Having read a feel good book previously, I thought I would continue the trend. I found Tree Talk by Ana Salote in my library and decided there wouldn't be anything too horrific or depressing about a child and a tree. While I was right to think this, the material in the book is certainly sad in places, but Salote has a knack for juxtaposing the negative content with the more uplifting and hopeful.

I appreciated the new perspective of a tree. I can't recall ever reading something from a tree's point of view without it being very human-esque. From the beginning of the book I found the consciousness of a tree to be convincing. It was a pleasant idea and easy to grasp. The connection between child and tree was a touch of necessary magic which allowed the reader to get into the mind of the tree (or perhaps, it's better described as the tree being in the mind of a human). This book makes references to oil wars and global warming, concepts which most people are familiar with. Salote herself says she wrote this book 'because of human ego-driven planet wrecking. I wanted to give a voice to the innocent bystanders: the plants and animals'. Well, I think she succeeded marvellously.

Salote uses language that a child could understand, apart from a few words that they may need a dictionary or Google to look up the definition for, and this makes the book accessible. With modern society the way it is, it seems increasingly important to encourage younger generations to become aware of the impact their behaviour has on a wider scale. It could be said that younger readers may not be able to really identify with Charlie because of the differences in their lifestyles and hobbies, however there are many similarities in lifestyle and children with a developed imagination will be able to put themselves in his shoes. Charlie is a character who can set an example for them. He is kind to plants and animals, and takes an interesting in protecting life. From an adult perspective Charlie is an endearing little boy.

That certain human 'planet wrecking' isn't explored in great detail means this book can reach another audience - adults who are tired of having environmental messages shoved at them left, right and centre. The animals condemn humans, but there are no hard facts to swallow and no hard guilt trips for the reader accompanied by a list of what you should do. This allows the reader to take stock and research things for themselves.

Salote did a great job at creating the plant world. It was very convincing and enlightening as a reader, despite having studied the science of plants in my GCSE studies. The animal world was also interesting, but bordered more on amusing because of the charge leading hamsters and animal strikes. The ending was also unexpected. The way the ending was delivered seemed abrupt and yet, at the same time, it extended as far as I would hope it would reach time wise.

As an adult reader I would have liked more facts interwoven. I enjoyed how Salote incorporated knowledge such as the origins of Ash and the importance of trees to the human race. As a fan of learning I would happily of had more facts like those (as a opposed to numerical facts that can sound a little preachy and become boring). Furthermore, I felt the disappearance of Charlie's dad just... happened. I would have expected a little more development in that department, but I'm aware family and childhood problems weren't the main focus.

All in all, this story was strangely uplifting. I would recommend it as it doesn't take long to get through and it doesn't feel emotionally heavy. It's child friendly and I would certainly suggest encouraging children to read it with an open mind (and maybe prepared with a bit of background about fossil fuels and global warming). The friendship between child and tree is fascinating and the new tree perspective is something I really enjoyed.

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