The Lonely Little Tree by Moya Kirby
A single tree is left standing alone looking out to sea on a cliff edge where a forest once grew. Our native birds gather, promising to cheer her up – they will make her their Christmas Tree. With decorations of clematis blossoms, a spider’s silvery threads, feathers, berries and shells, the tree stands glowing, a beautiful sight on a Christmas night.
This New Zealand Christmas story was inspired when the author, Moya Kirby, spotted a lone tree on a hill while she was walking to a party at the beach. She remarked that the tree would soon be cut down for a Christmas tree and the spark of a story grew.
At the time of writing the story, Kirby was a kindergarten teacher and it is clear she understands what children want, and need, from a story.
She loads the pages with writing features -- rhyme, alliteration and simile. The story is lyrical and poetic, and makes for a lovely bedtime story. It’s also somewhat educational, with each bird adding pieces from their own habitat to the tree as decorations.
Kirby was living in Gisborne at the time of writing the story, and the impact of forestry in the area is felt in the book. She plays on the theme, in a gentle manner, empowering the birds. Alone they can’t do much, but together the birds can save the little tree.
Terri Rose Baynton’s watercolour illustrations are whimsical and understated. She wonderfully personifies the tree, and the birds, turning them into expressive and lovable characters. Her gentle illustrations add to the peaceful story, yet when a shadowy figure looms on the hill, her pictures perfectly mimic the fear and trepidation.
This is a subtle celebration of New Zealand -- from celebrating Christmas in summer, to the majesty of our birds and their habitats, as well as the isolation we can still experience here.
With subtle gold foil on the cover that add to the magic, this is a lovely, gentle tale that will delight readers both young and old.
Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser
Scholastic, RRP $27.99