I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of Big Tree by Brian Selznick. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.
In Big Tree, we follow the lives of two sycamore seeds, Louise and Merwin. A forest fire leads to them leaving their mother tree early, and they have to traverse the land while seeking a place to put down roots. They face many dangers and obstacles, from giant beasts to natural disasters. All the while, Louise is convinced she hears a voice, different from the linked network of trees in their home forest, which is calling to her. Merwin is more skeptical, but soon learns that there is more to the universe than he thought.
This is definitely the fastest I’ve ever read a 500-page book (in one sitting, over the course of a single morning). The illustrations (and there are tons) in this book are gorgeous and indispensable to the experience of this story. I can’t believe I’ve never read a book by this author before!
This is a strange but beautiful story. Seeing the world through the perspective of two seeds is fascinating, and I learned a lot about trees and forests. I also think it was brilliant to set this mostly during the Cretaceous Era, as it gives a great perspective of how ancient this tree species is. In fact, a wider perspective on time is a major part of this. With such a long-lasting tree, it makes sense to include that. Trees experience the world in a different way than humans do, and imagining that was kind of amazing.
A lot of this story deals with facing change, working together, and how to find strength in spite of destruction. It’s very pertinent to the world today, where our existence and environment feels so fragile. I love the concept Selznick provides, that the world will endure through so much, even devastating alterations to the climate—it is us, humanity and the other life here, that is in danger. It’s a quiet but urgent call to action, though it’s a call that’s steeped in hope.
In the end, Big Tree is simply fantastic. This is marketed as a middle grade book, but it’s really for everyone. On a small level, it’s a story of two siblings finding their way through the world together. On a larger level, it’s a story that champions being adaptive, finding connections with others, and caring for the world. The art is stunning, the words are powerful, and they come together to make a book that’s truly special.
Big Tree will be published on April 4th, 2023!