By Author / Illustrator
Paperback / softback
Once upon a time a group of friends were seeking a place to call home. The desert was too hot, the valley was too wet and the mountain was too windy. Then they found the forest. It was perfect. The leaves gave shelter from the sun and rain, and a gentle breeze wound through the branches. But the friends soon wanted to build shelters. The shelters became houses, then the houses got bigger. All too soon they wanted to control the environment and built a huge wooden wall around the community. As they cut down the trees, the forest becomes thinner, until there is just one last tree standing. It is down to the children to find a solution.
My children initially thought that because The Last Tree was a picture book, that it would be a simple book. They were very surprised. The main theme of the book is about the earth only having a limited amount of resources and once they're all gone, that's it.
The fact that it was the children in the story who eventually broke down the wall around the village, and as a consequence their parents' hearts, was important. It gave my children the very strong message that their words and actions can make a difference, even to the adults around them. They can lead the way and show the grown ups how to make things better.
I would say that this book could be one of those we use right throughout the school with different year groups gaining different depths of understanding from it. The Last Tree is a modern day parable, giving us a way to make positive changes to the hearts, minds and surroundings of us all.
Picture book / Reviewed by Sharon Porter, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 5+
What an amazing message this book has, especially for this day and age! The Last Tree looks at the bizarre, destructive and selfish relationship that we have with nature. It is a story about greed and consequence. Emily Haworth-Booth provides the next generation with a crucial opportunity to look at ourselves and our way of life: Nature only has so much to give and once a resource is gone, it's gone forever!
The beautifully illustrated picture book sees a group of friends in search of somewhere to live. After many failed attempts, finally, they come across a peaceful forest which provides a natural shelter from the elements of nature. The group of people love their new home and it brings such joy to them all. The people soon start making use of the abundance of wood. They build shelters, houses, dens, washing lines, chairs and tables all of which were made from the wood of their new home.
However, over time, the resource starts to dwindle, and with that, so does their natural protection from the elements. They need to chop even more wood down to make a giant fence to stop the wind until there is only one small tree left. Soon people in their homes forget about the beautiful forest that was once their home. They isolate themselves in their own buildings whilst growing bitter of each other and slowly losing their love of life and nature.
The last tree sparked the imagination of the children. They loved to play, and it brought joy to them once again and so, this tree started to grow taller and taller. The children could see the damage that their parents had done to the land, they yearned for the forest once again and sought to right this wrong.
I would recommend this book for children aged five and above. In a classroom, this book can be used to spark conversations regarding the consequences of our actions. I would recommend it as either the start of an SMSC input or perhaps to kick-off a topic regarding 'our world'. The message this book holds will stay with the children and the adults that read it. It could even be used as the start of a tree-planting project at school.
It would be incredible if EYFS children were motivated to plant their own tree at the school and then they could see it grow with them throughout their time at school: a lasting and natural legacy for them to leave the next generation.
Picture book / Reviewed by James Hewish, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 5+