The Tree and the River by Aaron Becker

Published by Candlewick

Summary:  The first spread of this wordless picture book shows a young tree standing by the river of the title with the skeleton of a house being built nearby.  A boy and a girl are playing near the tree.  On the next page, the boy (presumably) is grown up with his son, and the house has turned into a farm, with a few other houses near it, and several kids playing around the tree.  As time goes on the small community becomes a town, then a city.  A wall is built, and a war is fought.  The river is diverted and filled with boats; trains and then cars are also used for transportation.  As time goes on, the tree grows, then turns brown and dies as the civilization dies out and falls to ruin.  Finally, an acorn falls from the tree’s one remaining live branch, floating down the river until it takes root on a piece of land by the water.  On the last page, two children stand underneath the new young tree.  32 pages; ages 4 and up.

Pros:  This wordless masterpiece explores the rise and fall of human civilizations with an incredible amount of detail.  I can’t wait to share it with kids to see all the details I’ve missed (this has happened to me with Aaron Becker’s wordless trilogy, Journey, Quest, and Return).  Definitely a Caldecott contender.

Cons:  It’s definitely heavier and grimmer than the Journey trilogy, but there is that spark of hope at the end.

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