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This is the first book I’ve read recently from small publishers Millwood Press, an award-winning publishing company established way back in the 1960s. They are known for producing high quality specialty productions. They cherish books, especially those that touch individuality. They currently focus on children’s books illustrated by contemporary artists in a fine arts tradition. So, as the daughter of historian Judy Siers and photographer Jim Siers (and controller of the company), it seems only right that Sophie Siers should show her hand with the pen.
Sophie has spent plenty of time on a Hawkes Bay farm, so it’s natural that her story should revolve about a boy and a tree – nature in it’s purest form and its most simple. And the story is simple too. It follows little Arlo as he climbs his favourite Ginkgo tree to watch the circle of life revolve around him. In this case, it’s a family of piwakawaka, who come to nest, lay eggs, raise their young and fly off. Then after autumn and winter, the birds return, to begin the whole process again.
I loved Kate Twhigg’s simple watercolours. She has painted throughout her life, but has never previously been published. She’s done a pretty good job. For me, I would have like these images to have been a little sharper – the images are rendered in coloured pencil and watercolour, making them a little blurry. But they are still very good. The endpapers with flying birds and butterflies are delightful.
However, both of my girls, the real critics, loved this book. They related to the story, and to the images. They wanted to go outside in their dressing gowns and hunt for birds’ nests – at 8.30pm! On a school night.
Kate, who sometimes writes in this blog did add one question for Sophie – ‘where’s the backstory about Arlo? Who is he? Why does he climb the tree. Where’s his iPad? Why does the book he reads have no words on the cover?’ She was disturbed by Arlo’s anonyminity.
Overall, though, this story was a winner. A perfect bedtime story, and uniquely local, too.
Reviewed by Tim Gruar
Arlo and The Ginkgo Tree
written by Sophie Siers and illustrated by Kate Twhigg
Published by Millwood Press