Barron's (The Lost Years of Merlin) unevenly paced fantasy centers on nine-year-old Anna, who lives with a crotchety old man in a cottage near the forest. In answer to her repeated inquiries about her past, her guardian, Master Mellwyn, tells her only that he found her as an infant nestled in the roots of a willow tree. He forbids her to go into the woods, warning that evil "ghouls" live there. At the same time, she is repeatedly drawn to the sight of the High Willow, which towers over the other forest trees: "Something about this tree spoke to her aye, called to her." The chapter that chronicles the heroine's softening toward her master and her immediate about-face moves too swiftly for readers to find her abrupt changes of heart credible. The upshot is that Anna befriends a forbidden bear who suddenly transforms into a boy and announces that he is a "tree spirit." As the two bond, readers will likely piece together the lass's identity, rendering anticlimactic the moment when she discovers who her mother is. The story's confusing internal logic (Why does Anna bear a striking resemblance to the Master's late daughter, for instance?) and predictable denouement diminish its effect. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
As long as Anna can remember, she has lived in a small cabin near the edge of a forest with a grumpy old fisherman named Master Mellwyn. Curiosity about her roots draws her into the forbidden forest where she meets Sash, a bear cub that guides her to the mysterious truth about her past. This fantasy is recommended for young readers who appreciate descriptive language and a meandering story line. VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2001, Philomel, 128p, $14.99. Ages 11 to 14. Reviewer: Tasha Bobrovitz, Teen Reviewer
A lonely child looks for a mother. Starved for affection, she struggles through nearly insurmountable odds, making up a life, talking to animals, trees and birds. The premise is a familiar one, and requires from the author a new viewpoint, new struggles and a new "something" to keep readers from skipping 50 pages and missing nothing, or simply closing the book without finishing. Barron has found that "something." The brave, resourceful character, Rowanna, called Anna, has been raised by the old man she calls "Master," and she knows no other parent. He says he found her at the foot of an enormous willow tree deep in the forest, and that her mother was killed moments before by the ghouls that haunt the woods. That is why he confines her to the cottage; although there are trees and hills right outside, she is forbidden to visit them. She makes a tree-friend, "Burl," and imagines his branches hug her, tease her, smack her. She rescues a tiny bird and calls him "Eagle." She wanders farther into the woods every day, looking for the willow that sheltered her. She makes another frienda bear cub. When the bear communicates that his name is Sash, he seems to become a sandy-haired boy, who says he is neither bear nor boy, but a tree spirit, a drumalo. He can take her on the two-day journey to the High Willow, when the Master is on a fishing trip or if he'll be gone on All Hallows Day, then that's when they'll go. Anna can hardly wait to find out what happened to her mother. In the woods, she feels free for the first time and decides to climb to the Willow on her own. Anna suddenly realizes that is a drumalo too, which is not very surprising to the reader. But the Master has followed her, andas she curls up at the Willow's roots he grabs for her. She must fight the Master now if she really wants to be with the tree, and when he is injured she must decide whether to save his life even though he has threatened hers. A discussion of this story could involve deciding what it means to be human. Fun to read and not frightening at all. 2001, Philomel, $14.99. Ages 10 to 15. Reviewer: Judy Silverman
Gr 4-7-Barron is a wonderful storyteller, a maker of myths and fables who creates magical places where characters learn wisdom and power. Here, nine-year-old Rowanna is determined to discover her past and find her mother. She lives in a lonely cottage by the sea with a fisherman, old Mellwyn, who rescued her as a baby from beneath the High Willow tree in a forest that is haunted by tree ghouls. In time, Anna befriends a bear/boy who is a tree spirit. When the protection Mellwyn offers begins to feel like a restraint, the girl makes her way to the High Willow with her friend on High Hallow Eve. On that day, spirits emerge from the trees and dance through the night. Anna learns that there are no tree ghouls, and that she, too, is a tree spirit, the daughter of the High Willow. The message is clear: if we are fearful, we will see frightening things around us, while if we are positive in our outlook, we will be open to the world around us. As in the author's previous novels, magic and the supernatural are used to reveal the interconnectedness of all living things and to convey a deep respect for nature. Stylistically rich and lyrical, this novel weaves themes of self-discovery, family, loyalty, and friendship into an imaginative tale.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In this short fantasy novel, nine-year-old Rowanna, who lives in an isolated cottage with an old fisherman she calls Master, longs to learn more about her mother. Master has forbidden Rowanna to enter the woods near the cottage, which he claims are full of dangerous tree ghouls. But a playful young bear coaxes Rowanna into the woods and after they becomes friends, she spends her days there. On High Hallow Eve, the two friends take a day-long journey to find the tree where Master discovered Rowanna as a baby. A wild night ensues when the tree spirits emerge and dance with joy, and Rowanna learns the secret of her mother, who is a willow tree. The revelation, though, creates a major inconsistency in the fantasy, causing the reader to wonder why the mother's tree spirit didn't simply rescue Rowanna years earlier. Barron (The Wings of Merlin, 2000, etc.) writes lyrically about the forest and seasons, but he has unfortunately tried to give the language an old-fashioned sound by repeated use of words like "mayhaps" and "aye." He also relies heavily on exclamation points and italics to add emotion. For example, when Rowanna sees a drawing in the sand, she realizes, "It was the face of the master himself! Aye, that it was!" The uncomplicated, slightly predictable story will appeal only to fantasy and fairy-tale lovers who can overlook the often stilted prose. Forsooth. (Fiction 8-11)
“Barron is a wonderful storyteller, a maker of myths and fables who creates magical places where characters learn wisdom and power.”—School Library Journal
"Tree Girl will surely delight its readers. As in all T.A. Barron books, there is a great deal of wisdom and humor — and an unforgettable hero."— Madeleine L'Engle Newbery Winner, A Wrinkle in Time
“Barron portrays [characters]… with subtlety and originality... [Readers] will respond to underlying themes of self-reliance, rebellion, and the search for self-knowledge.”—Booklist
“Behind Tree Girl is the author's bone deep belief in the holiness of our earth and the children and trees on it. I wish there were a thousand T.A. Barrons out there.”—Rosemary Wells, Author of Mary on Horseback
“Tree Girl is sprightly, magical, and wise. The story is one to enjoy and to ponder, a breath of the forest—a delight.”—Barbara Helen Berger, Author of Grandfather Twilight
“In Tree Girl, T.A. Barron has created a fantasy with the poignancy and the lyricism of the best tales of Hans Christian Andersen.”—Barbara Kiefer, Author of Children's Literature in the Elementary School, 6th and 7th Editions
“Weaves elements of environmentalism, folklore, and personal discovery into a story that is brief but completely engrossing.”—BabyCenter.com
“I read Tree Girl aloud to my entire family (my youngest is a 2nd grader). They were entranced. The only time I heard anything from them was when I paused to take a drink. The cry was, ‘Keep going!’”—BookReview.com
“I found Tree Girl very touching. It speaks to the mystery that every child has within.”—William Howarth, Professor of English Literature, Princeton University
“T. A. Barron is a wonderful find for young readers for this reason: He tells interesting stories without dumbing them down.”—Boulder Daily Camera