The Branch

illus. by Pierre Pratt. 32p. Kids Can. Sept. 2016. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781771385640.
PreS-Gr 2—When a girl's favorite tree branch breaks and falls during an ice storm, she wants to keep it forever because "it's not just a branch to me!" An elderly neighbor understands that a branch can be worth keeping, and together they combine his tools and expertise along with her elbow grease and imagination to reveal "what's hiding in the wood." The gentle, straightforward tale conveys deeper themes of friendship, hope, and imagination with grace and insight. Readers get to know the girl and her world slowly but steadily through her direct narration and the excellent gouache illustrations. Her words reflect a child's perspective through basic emotions, observant descriptions, and natural dialogue. The deceptively simple illustrations use rich colors to express the general mood and individual characters with equal effectiveness. The pictures provide a tangible feel to the girl's home, her neighborhood, and the workshop, while the human figures draw the eye with strong lines, fluent postures, and splashes of rich color. The girl's creation, shown on the satisfying final page, is a rope swing attached to the same tree, which neatly provides her with a new vehicle for her imagination.
VERDICT A quiet but powerful tale supported by a strong blend of words and pictures. Perfect for sharing one-on-one or in a small group.

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