Glowing paper dioramas are the heart and soul of MacKay’s debut, a quiet, reader-directed contemplation of a seed’s slow growth into a tree. In spirit, the story is similar to Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead’s And Then It’s Spring, though the execution is very much MacKay’s own. A small boy first plants the seed, then watches the sapling grow as the seasons pass. With his yellow rubber raincoat and translucent umbrella on a rainy spring day, he looks as though he could have been cut from a vintage greeting card. Patterned and diaphanous papers add depth and texture—in winter, the boy gazes out at the snow from inside a cozy room lined with grapevine wallpaper; on a summer night, his tent is lit from within, the tree now big enough to tower over it. Eventually, the boy becomes a man and the sapling a full-fledged tree (“Season by season,/ Year by year.../ That tree will grow SO LARGE/ It will hold you”), cementing MacKay’s message about the value of persistence. Ages 3–up. Agent: Kirsten Hall, the Bright Group. (Feb.)
Ontario Library Association 2013 Best Bets Top 10 Picture Book for Children
Atlanta Parent Magazine Best Books of 2013 list for Preschool to Early Elementary
"Glowing paper dioramas are the heart and soul of MacKay's debut. . . ."
"All of [MacKay's] forethought and preparation has fittingly paid off in a story that is as surprising as it is nakedly inspirational."Jay Bushara, Huffington Post
"The magic of this debut picture book rests in MacKay's diorama-style illustrations . . . Just the right antidote for The Giving Tree."
"The book will be suitable for quiet one-on-one sharing or perhaps as a bedtime selection."
School Library Journal
"[MacKay] does show unusual sensitivity to effects of color and light."
"A magical, serendipitous story. . . . "
City Book Review
"This beautiful story is good for all young children. . . ."
Parents & Teachers, U.S. Kids Magazines
"The delight here is in the remarkable cut-paper forms that bring each scene to life. Delicate and meditative."
PreS-Gr 2—MacKay presents a contemplative story about planting a seed and watching-and waiting-for it to grow into a big, strong tree with branches perfect for climbing onto and dreaming. It is primarily a mood piece in which the emphasis is on the artwork. A boy plants a seed, makes a wish, and waits, because "something magical can happen." After the rains follow days of sunshine, a fragile sapling springs up. Waiting and waiting some more, the boy one day discovers "little buds and tender leaves." Summer brings bees or a butterfly, and the tree continues to grow. On through the seasons it thrives, through the cold days of winter, until the next spring when there are enough branches and buds to attract birds. "Season by season [and] year by year," the tree is eventually big enough to hold the boy, now an adolescent. Waiting even longer, the branches can hold yet another generation. MacKay has created her dreamy piece with paper cutouts layered for effect in a paper theater or shadow-boxlike setting. The book will be suitable for quiet one-on-one sharing or perhaps as a bedtime selection.—Roxanne Burg, Orange County Public Library, CA
A verbal and visual tone poem involving a seed, a wish and time. A text afflicted with grammatical ambiguity ("If you hold a seed / And make a wish, / And plant it in the ground…") and an unlikely claim that "When autumn comes again, / [The tree] will lean into the wind" chronicles the growth of a tree. With it, the book follows the boy who plants it over years and seasons until he sits, an adult, on one of its branches to show another seed in turn to a child. The seeds depicted are just generic blobs, and despite recognizable birds and butterflies in MacKay's paper-collage scenes, her pervasive use of extremely soft focus backgrounds and slow shifts of hue set aside specific depictions of natural detail in favor of a dreamy, abstract evocation of time's passage. Likewise, except for some of the animals, her figures look down, away or off to the side, which will have the effect of distancing viewers--younger ones, at least. MacKay's debut could have used better writing, but artistically, she does show unusual sensitivity to effects of color and light. Nevertheless, next to such artful treatments as The Carrot Seed and And Then It's Spring, by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin E. Stead (2012), it pretty much defines "additional purchase." (Picture book. 6-8)