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A weird yet wonderful book
Up in the Tree - Margaret Atwood
Member Name: walsha11
Up in the Tree - Margaret Atwood
Advantages: colours, illustrations, narrative, rhyme, lettering
Disadvantages: narrow format
I actually had no idea that Margaret Atwood had written any children's books. I, and I would imagine most people, know her best for her adult fiction writing. I have a couple of her books lined up to read but read Oryx and Crake last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. She is a fiction writer though many of her books delve into the science fiction world and Oryx and Crake is a dytopian novel which I thought was both well written and full or surprises.
I came across Up In The Tree recently when I purchased a book from work called 1001 children's books to read before you grow up. If you've read any of my other book reviews you'll know I love quirky and weird children's books. I work as a children's bookseller and spend a lot of my time finding weird and wonderful stories I want to share with the children I work with and teach. I thought the 1001 book would help me to reconnect with forgotten authors and illustrators. Quite quickly I came across this Margaret Atwood book and was surprised to find she had written children's books too. I checked almost immediately whether I could order it and was pleased to find that I could.
The book has a little passage written by Margaret Atwood at the beginning which explains her thoughts on the book. Up In The Tree was published in 1978 and the passage written in 2005 so it is basically a reflection on her early work. She explains the print and illustrations process involved, she illustrated this book herself, and the primitive methods they used to construct the book. At the time it was too expensive to print with multiple colours so many illustrators were limited to two, she used red and blue and mixed this together to make a purpley brown colour. The effect is really kitsch looking and actually I really like it. It definitely is different from any modern picture book you would get and reminds me of early Dr Seuss illustrations which were usually black, white and one colour. It gives the book a certain continuity which I think it great for children and because there is a great deal of white space the colours really stand out and look just lovely.
The lettering in the book was also hand designed and printed. They really do look like hand drawn letters and the font varies and is accentuated for certain words. This adds a lovely whimsical and quirky factor to the book which I think children will really enjoy. It is also really helpful for young readers as the design of the lettering plays on the meaning of the word. The lettering sticks to the main two colours too, red and blue and I love the variation as it adds a really playful edge to this book which enhances the narrative.
The story is basically of two children who live up in a tree and love their life up there. One day their ladder is taken away and they cannot get down. They get rescued by a bird and decide to nail steps into the side of the tree, they live happily ever after up in the tree. The language in the book is simple and therefore perfect for younger children and beginner readers. There is also a great deal of repetition and really simple rhymes which are hugely beneficial for beginner readers as they encounter words they have already read and therefore build up their confidence. I would definitely liken it, one again, to Dr Seuss in the way that Atwood plays with language creating a fun plot and rhyme for the reader to enjoy.
I love this book already and bringing it home tonight have already read it multiple times. I cannot wait to try it out with the kids that I work with and also when I go back into my teaching practice. It is a thoroughly enjoyable and imaginative books which is illustrated beautifully. My only slight issue is that it comes in a rather narrow but tall format, which looks lovely but will probably become lost in my bookcase over time. I'll have to remember to dig it out from time to time.
Overall, this book cost me £5.99 and will undoubtedly bring me (and others) years and years of enjoyment.
Summary: A fantastic discovery of a book for all to enjoy.