Newest Review: ... perspective on their treetop home and they long to escape. I love the simple language used and the way in which the words are spo... more
We Live in a Tree, Way Up in a Tree, It's Fun in the Sun, And a Pain in the Rain...
Up in the Tree - Margaret Atwood
Member Name: jo1976
Up in the Tree - Margaret Atwood
Date: 16/12/12, updated on 10/06/13 (51 review reads)
Advantages: Beautifully written and illustrated, nostalgic colour scheme, written by Margaret Atwood
Disadvantages: Not widely known
Such is my respect for Margaret Atwood, that I would have treasured this book even if it had been a weak example of early children's book publishing. Fortunately, it isn't and the book is both a delightful nostalgic reminder of how books tended to look when I was a young child and a story that still manages to capture the interest and attention of my own young boys, aged two and five.
The story itself is told in a steady rhythm which makes it a pleasure to read aloud and to read and re-read in accordance with my two year old's demands. The tale features two simply drawn young children who have happily made their home in a tree. The children love their life in the tree but they soon to begin to realise the challenges of their outdoor existence when some beavers come along and destroy their ladder. Suddenly the lack of freedom offers a different perspective on their treetop home and they long to escape.
I love the simple language used and the way in which the words are spoken by the two children themselves. The sentences flow really easily thanks to a well balanced rhythm and the use of rhyming words both within and at the end of sentences. There is also good use of repetition which helps when reading aloud to very young children and is also useful when used as an early reading book for children beginning to read independently.
The real beauty of the story is actually the simple handwritten illustrations and the simplicity of the colour scheme. When my husband first saw this book he assumed it was a modern story and commented that it had been designed to appeal to parents, rather than children. I can entirely understand why he would think that, as the design is nothing like most modern picture books with their garish colour schemes and cluttered images. Knowing the true authenticity of this story and the reasons for its simplicity, only adds to the appeal. The foreword explains that Margaret Atwood not only wrote the story and illustrated it but also hand-lettered the clear and distinctive text to keep costs down. This introduction also explains the reasons behind the simple colour scheme, as it was too expensive at the time to use more than two colours, hence the red, blue and brown (a combination of the two) images that really add to the appeal of the illustrations.
The overall effect is undeniably reminiscent of the work of Dr Seuss and likely to appeal to fans (both young and old) of his stories. This book stands on its own merits, however, and I actually prefer the images of the children used by Atwood. Some of the drawings are really funny, particularly the images of the children wearing sunglasses and drinking lemonade, followed by them huddled under umbrellas and later clinging on to branches for dear life! These pictures really fit with the simple text and help to bring the whole story to life.
This book functions equally well on three entirely different levels. Its simplicity, authenticity and nostalgic qualities make it a book that should be appreciated as a thing of beauty by adults, especially anybody acquainted with her better known novels. I would still be won over by this story even if I did not have any children to read it to.
The story does still work as an entertaining read to captivate the attention of very young children. My two year old genuinely loves this story and its compact format makes it ideal to slip inside my changing bag to while away lengthy waits at the GP's surgery or elsewhere.
Its final benefit is as a fun and simple reading aid. My middle son is five years old and in Year One at school. I find the vocabulary and repetitive style of writing is ideal for his current reading ability, as he is able to recognise many of the recurring and familiar words and use the images and structure of the story to work out some of the less familiar vocabulary. As with Dr Seuss texts, the amount of vocabulary is restricted and there are no really tricky words with the exception perhaps of the inclusion of 'cough', although this is cleverly rhymed with 'off' which does help young readers to work out the correct sound. My five year old has spotted a couple of discrepancies within the story, however, pointing out that the children don't actually have to just eat leaves as this is clearly an apple tree and that the characters do actually have somebody else (an owl) to talk to, when left stranded in the tree!
The audio CD included within my edition is a fun but unnecessary edition. As an adult fan, I did find it interesting to hear Margaret Atwood's spoken voice. It also kept my two year old distracted (and quiet) during a long drawn-out journey the other week. My ten year old passenger was less than impressed though. Ever the critic, he amused me by saying that the voice wasn't 'using enough expression!' Mind you, by the time we had listened to the story on repeat around five times both he and I were ready to jab blunt pencils in our ears!
In all, this is a really beautiful and whimsical tale that has really stood the test of time. It proves that bright colours and gimmicky buttons and pop ups aren't always necessary to capture the imagination and interest of young children, even in today's technological era. This is one for every bookshelf, regardless of the age of the owner.
Bloomsbury ISBN 9780747594178
Summary: A beautiful and whimsical children's story