Growing Pains by Alison McLennan and Melissa Johnson
Growing Pains is the story of Finn, whose family have planted a new tree. Soon, Finn starts to worry. Does the tree get cold like him? Does the tree get lonely? Does the tree get hungry? Are trees scared of the dark? Although Finn soon figures out that the tree doesn’t eat toast and sandwiches, he finds other ways to make sure his new friend is comfortable. Wrapping the tree in his scarf, keeping it company, imagining himself as a tree, Finn finds that there is plenty to do when you have a tree for a friend.
Finn’s journey is full of fun and humour. It’s about asking big questions and curiosity, as well as care and empathy. The illustrations resemble paper decoupage, providing a fresh texture to this original tale of friendship. There are quirky things to take note of alongside the main story, such as Finn’s dog balancing on a ball. Particularly during a cold winter, young readers will enjoy this story, as like Finn, they cuddle in bed or are told to put on a scarf and hat to go outside. Encouraging connection to the natural world, this story opens up a new world in the ordinary backyard just outside Finn’s door.
The hardback book is easy to hold and read together. The writing style echoes Finn’s train of thought, in easily digestible sentences that draw the reader through the story right alongside Finn. Illustrator Melissa Watts uses mainly recycled materials for her work. This is a unique point of difference and fits well with the book, which, though it doesn’t engage with ecological questions, may help children develop a sensitivity to the natural around them.
Reviewer: Susannah Whaley
EK Books, RRP $24.99