Tree by Claire Saxby

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

Claire Saxby, the author of this children’s book worked in Community Health while simultaneously writing for children.  She has won several awards for her work.

Jess Racklyeft is an illustrator who creates a variety of works either on paper or digitally. Her work with Claire Saxby on Iceberg, resulted in the accolade of CBCA Picture Book of the Year.

They have teamed up again to produce the 25.5 x 31cm hard-covered children’s book titled Tree which explores the life in and around a mighty mountain ash.

The illustrations are colourful and, although they do not provide sharp detail, the pictures suggest the landscape which the tree inhabits, and the wildlife also found there.

I found it difficult to determine the age of the child this book was written for. At first, I thought it was for lower primary children because of the questions the text asks, and it seemed like a book which an adult would read to a younger child – ‘Can you see where the tree stands?’, ‘See the branches lean, so far above’. Yet some of the text provided would require lots of explanation from an adult reader, such as ‘between sapwood and heart wood’, words which seems to be repeated throughout the book. Although there are many well-known examples of Australian fauna mentioned, which young children would know, there are some less familiar creatures such as ‘pardalotes’, ‘treecreepers’ which a reader would need to elaborate on.

On each page, the illustration follows closely the text, and I could imagine young children trying to spot each of the species mentioned, however, not all of them are there on the page and those that are present are quite small or well hidden.

I also wonder at the choice of some of the language. The glider sails to a younger tree, making an impossible landing. Would a young child be able to understand this, or would it cause confusion with the meaning of the word ‘impossible’? The words ‘a boulder-big wombat’ had me wondering if this is supposed to be a particular species of wombat or whether it was just describing the size of the wombat? An adult would be able to work around this, but I wondered about the terminology for a young child.

The book is presented beautifully and the knowledge it contains would enhance learning. The fold-out page is a wonderful idea to explain the height of this species of tree, but I wonder just how long it would be before it became torn away from the book through use.



by Claire Saxby and Jess Racklyeft

Allen & Unwin

ISBN 978-176106 950 5

$24.99; 29pp

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