The Family Tree

The Family Tree

by David McPhail
     
 

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A man in the 1800s comes upon a beautiful forest and decides to build his home there. When he clears the land, he leaves one special tree to grace his front yard. Over the years, several generations of his family enjoy this tree, but it is endangered by a plan to build a highway. A young boy and his host of animal friends get together to make a stand, and give back

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Overview

A man in the 1800s comes upon a beautiful forest and decides to build his home there. When he clears the land, he leaves one special tree to grace his front yard. Over the years, several generations of his family enjoy this tree, but it is endangered by a plan to build a highway. A young boy and his host of animal friends get together to make a stand, and give back to the tree which has given them so much.

With lavish illustrations and very few words, David McPhail delivers a timeless environmental message and a heartwarming story for ages 4 to 8.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The continuity of family and nature and the power of a single voice resonate in McPhail’s (The Abandoned Lighthouse) thoughtful fable. Riding in a covered wagon, a man arrives in the wilderness “to start a new life.” He chops down trees to create pastures for his animals, fields for his crops, and logs for his house, but he leaves one tree standing to provide shade in summer and act as a buffer against winter winds. McPhail’s understated, homespun watercolor-and-ink illustrations effectively portray the passage of time, as cars replace horses on the road near the tree. The day finally comes when workers arrive to widen the road—and fell the tree. The original settler’s great-great-grandson, a small boy in overalls, resolutely stands in front of the tree in protest: “Not this tree.” Soon, the boy is joined by a bevy of forest animals; together they stare down the workers, who relent and reroute the road around the tree. A sentimental but inspirational tale. Ages 4–8. Agent: Faith Hamlin, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
The story begins several generations in the past when a young man heads out into the wilderness to claim and clear land to build his house and farm. There is one tree that he leaves next to the house which will provide shade in the summer and block the cold winds of winter. Once the house and fences are built, he brings his wife to the homestead and soon they had a child. In addition, other people arrived and now they had neighbors. The young boy grew up and took over the farm from his father and so it went until the great-great-grandson of the first settler was the one on the farm. The tree has been there all the time and witnessed all that has taken place. Disaster is about to strike as workers arrive to widen the road. The boy protests and many of the forest animals come to his aid, so the engineers redesigned the road around the tree and life remained pretty much the same for the tree and the boy. The story—while fanciful, since it is unlikely that a young boy could stop a highway—is beautifully and meticulously illustrated in pen and ink by McPhail. Young children will root for the boy and be delighted at the happy ending. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4—Visually told through priceless, historically revealing watercolor and ink illustrations, and voiced with succinct sentences and brief speech bubbles, this picture book chronicles five generations and their "family tree." The title-page illustration depicts an aerial view of a covered wagon entering a forest of dense treetops. Therein, a pioneer stops and starts chopping trees to create a clearing. But he stops, and ponders, "Hmm…not this one." He leaves one tree standing to "provide shade for this house during the long hot summers and act as a buffer against chilly winter winds." Others he uses to make planks, boards, beams, fences, posts, and rails. His oxen help him raise his house. "New generations join the family. Old ones left." Roads are being widened, and workers come to say, "The tree [is] in the way." The great-great-grandson stands in front of it in protest. A bird call goes out, and all the animals that live there join the effort. In what is a true illustrative tour de force, with superb pacing, children see the results of the workers' huddle to find a solution. Pair this stunning book with Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House (Hougton Mifflin, 1942) and Bonnie Pryor's The House on Maple Street (Morrow, 1987) for an eye-opening program on change and ecological awareness.—Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City
Kirkus Reviews
The love of an ancient tree leads a boy to unlikely activism. When the pioneers cleared the land to settle the western wilderness, one young man decided to leave one special tree standing to shade his new home. The years go by, and the land is further developed, but the tree remains, until a proposed highway threatens it. The great-grandson of the original settler calls on animals to help save the tree. Young environmentalists will cheer when the tree is saved, and they will enjoy the family story. McPhail's familiar watercolor-and-ink spreads capture the bucolic setting, especially effective when showing the wide swath of cleared land while the oxen are helping to build the house. Right from the start, though, the tone of the book is muddled by confusing and redundant graphic elements. Speech bubbles seem oddly out of place in the 1800s, especially when the main character is speaking to no one and the narration is clear and complete. The final illustration shows the boy, triumphantly swinging from his beloved tree--but the proximity of the new highway and the vehicular traffic makes this victory seem hollow at best. The graveyard at the right edge seems to indicate the fight against progress may be futile. Classes studying ecology and activism might find something to discuss here. Good intentions; confusing execution. (Picture book. 5-8)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805090574
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
03/27/2012
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
40
Sales rank:
1,340,088
Product dimensions:
7.40(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile:
AD480L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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