By Author / Illustrator
Charlotte Guillain, Sam Usher
Welbeck Publishing Group
'This beautifully drawn book is a delightful launchpad for home learning' - Sunday Times
Told in gentle rhyming verse, this beautiful non-fiction picture book follows the story of an oak tree on a hilltop as it witnesses life changing around it over the course of hundreds of years. From the time when hunters chased deer through the woodland, to when trees were cleared for farmland, to the smog and factories emerging during the industrial revolution. One majestic oak has seen it all, and now we can too.
Accompanying pages at the end of the book include a timeline of events in world history across the periods featured in the poem, the life cycle of an oak tree, and prompts to help parents and children explore their own local history.
10p from every book sold goes to support the work of the National Forest.
What Did the Tree See? is an eye catching and clever tale of how the world and landscape has changed through the eyes of a growing oak tree. Through her lyrical and heartfelt words, Charlotte Guillain effortlessly explains the life cycle of the mighty oak and at the same time gives children an insight into a timeline of history.
Being written in the first person allows the reader to connect with the acorn as it begins its life. You begin to see what it sees, feel what it feels and experience the world around you. The first page sets you up for your journey through the book and the simple rhetorical question of "So, what did I see?" invites you to dive in.
We begin in a world full of green - where trees, fields and nature command the landscape and man is a mere small part of this world. Our acorn has grown into a sapling and its young green leaves are nibbled by deers and brush aside by hunters. The time begins to pass and as it does, the sapling becomes a tree. Its branches, roots and trunk become stronger and stronger with each passing year and as it grows, so does the world around it. At first a village is formed, then a dock, a town and before you know it the lush green meadows have been replaced with a grey, noisy industrial hub.
Despite the environment changing around it, the oak tree remains strong through it all. Children continue to play on its branches and relax in the shade it provides…even hiding within its ageing, hollow trunk. The book then comes full cycle as the oak tree shares it acorns with the world and we see the circle of life begin again with a brand new sapling growing alongside the question "what will it see?".
Charlotte has done an expert job in the vocabulary choices made throughout the text but a large proportion of this book's success is thanks to the illustrations of Sam Usher. Through them, you get a true feeling of time passing by in front of you very eyes as you turn each page. Following the completion of the book, Charlotte Guillian has added non-fiction pages explaining the complete life cycle stages of an oak tree as well as a timeline of what the oak tree would have witnessed over the hundreds of years of its life.
This book would be the perfect addition to any science library within a primary school as it is fully accessible for children both in KS1 and KS2. I will be using it as part of my science curriculum delivery when covering the unit of plants and know that it will be useful for colleagues delivering science, history and PSHE units in their own year groups.
Picture Book / Reviewed by Kyle Matravers, teacher
Suggested Reading Age 5+