STARRED REVIEW
January 05, 2016

Exploring unexpected forest wonders

By Chloe Bonfield
Review by

In this picture book debut from British illustrator and animator Chloe Bonfield, readers meet a young boy named Jack, who is searching for “the perfect tree. Not to climb, not to draw, and definitely not to hug.” He needs a tree to hack and then stack, but the trees he first sees won’t quite do. Right when he’s about to give up, he hears from a woodpecker, who shows him the perfect tree, indeed: It’s a tree filled with a variety of other birds. Jack sees “birds and feathers” fill the air, and he’s filled with wonder.

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In this picture book debut from British illustrator and animator Chloe Bonfield, readers meet a young boy named Jack, who is searching for “the perfect tree. Not to climb, not to draw, and definitely not to hug.” He needs a tree to hack and then stack, but the trees he first sees won’t quite do. Right when he’s about to give up, he hears from a woodpecker, who shows him the perfect tree, indeed: It’s a tree filled with a variety of other birds. Jack sees “birds and feathers” fill the air, and he’s filled with wonder.

He then meets a squirrel (whose own tree is filled with acorns and berries for the winter), followed by a spider. “Have you seen my perfect tree?” the spider asks. It’s decorated with a splendid web, glimmering in the rain. Jack then sees his own “perfect tree” after all, a beautiful willow to keep him dry from the rain.

Bonfield’s art, collaged 3D pieces that are enhanced digitally, are filled with silhouettes and shadows, and her spreads are busy. Despite this busyness, the composition (and the lighting on the three-dimensional elements) really works. She knows where to draw the reader’s eye in such a way that brings the bustling forest to life—including snappy moments of onomatopoeia (twitches and clicks and drips from both the forest creatures and the rain)—without tiring us. She plays with perspective in dynamic ways, and she knows when to slow things down. The moment when Jack glides among the trees, sliding down glistening spider webs, with all three of his new friends near, is a beautiful moment of light, shadow and movement.

It’s a sweet but never cloying story with delicate and dazzling illustrations. It reminds children that the forest doesn’t need our intrusion. Via Jack and his friends, Bonfield brings readers an ode to nature and all the majestic wonders of wooded landscapes.

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.

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The Perfect Tree

The Perfect Tree

By Chloe Bonfield
Running Press
ISBN 9780762455867

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