Picture Book Snob
This beautiful book shows how ideas blossom
The Girl Who Planted Trees by Caryl Hart and Anastasia Suvorova
In this exceptional new story by Caryl Hart and Anastasia Suvorova, a little girl sees a lush green landscape in an old book her grandpa is reading. She wishes the nearby mountain was as beautiful. Grandpa explains that their mountain is the one in the picture; this is how it used to look before the trees were cut down by humans and all the animals disappeared.
As the girl eats breakfast, an idea comes to her. If her fruit grew from a pip, then maybe she can grow a tree from its seeds. And so begins the girl's mission to bring trees and animals back to a barren mountain. The plan is not an immediate success. There are several setbacks including a major one in which all appears to be lost. But the girl never gives up and accepts help when she needs it.
The girl's work ends up involving her entire community, bringing them closer together and benefitting them all. When the trees return, they have restorative powers for everyone around them. Just the sight of them, 'smoothed the frowns from people's foreheads and pulled up the corners of their mouths.' The Girl Who Planted Trees is an incredibly special book that celebrates nature and the power of dreams, no matter how unattainable they may initially appear. Despite being an original story, it feels like a fable, legend or folktale that has been passed down through generations. The language is extremely lyrical and although the text doesn't rhyme, it still reads like a poem.
Even though I was familiar with Anastasia Suvorova's work from Somewhere by Jeanne Willis, I still wasn't prepared for how breathtaking the illustrations for The Girl Who Planted Trees are. They're absolutely exquisite with a gorgeous colour palette. A little ladybird appears in every scene, accompanying the girl right up to the end and highlighting her affinity with nature. The images start out sparse of colour and life but insects, mice, exotic birds and foxes slowly creep in. By the time we reach the final pages, they practically vibrate and hum like a real forest.
We love how author Caryl Hart addresses the reader at the beginning, middle and end. This creates a comforting structure, helps children feel connected to the narrative and gives them agency too. Comparing readers to the girl and her trees places children in the story and emphasises how wonderful they are. The Girl Who Planted Trees lets readers know they are capable of extraordinary things too, no matter how young they might be.
We never learn the girl's name. She could be any girl or anyone. Even the reader. The whole world could be the girl's mountain and, just like the mountain, it needs our help. It's brilliant how the story shows how even though nature is mighty and magnificent, just like the girl's trees, it still needs our protection. It's fantastic how the girl's actions are something that anyone can do, with any budget. If readers want to emulate the main protagonist, all that is needed is time, attention and affection. There is nothing cost-prohibitive as even the seeds are free and come from fruit already eaten. This promotes reducing waste as well as regeneration.
As we read this for the first time, my four-year-old remarked that she liked the word 'pip' and it's a word I've always liked too. I love how it sounds and I love how pips are deceptively small and easily underestimated. Despite their size, they have the ability to become something amazing, just like the little people in our lives. The combination of eloquent text, stunning illustrations and seeing the protagonist grow old make this book a remarkably moving experience. The first time we read it, I became emotional as the story concluded. My girls were really excited to see the girl as a 'granny' at the end and I found the moments showing her with her child and her grandchild especially tender. Just as Grandpa helped and inspired the girl, she has a profound effect on the generations that come after her.
The Girl Who Planted Trees is a book that will plant seeds in the minds of its readers. It encourages children to care for their environment and to persist in the face of adversity. This hopeful, uplifting tale demonstrates how tiny ideas have the potential to grow and seemingly insignificant things can transform into something tremendous. It shows how, little by little, small actions lead to big changes, and even a child can make an enormous difference. Want to try planting trees using seeds from fruit yourself? Here are some helpful video tutorials: Grow your own apple tree Grow your own lemon tree Grow your own avocado plant
We're delighted to be part of the Instagram tour celebrating The Girl Who Planted Trees. Visit all the stops to learn even more about this beautiful story:
The Girl Who Planted Trees was published by Nosy Crow on 3rd March 2022 - see this book on the publisher's website
As with all Nosy Crow picture books, this comes with a free 'Stories Aloud' smartphone audiobook. Thanks so much to author Caryl Hart and Nosy Crow for kindly sharing this book with us; we will treasure it for years to come. All opinions expressed are our own.