Reading/Interest Level: Preschool, Primary
Author: Terry and Eric Fan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
A glum city gets an early morning surprise when a tree in front of the orphanage is trimmed to the shape of an owl. The next day, a neighbor's cats are climbing in a cat shaped tree! William, a young boy in the orphanage is transfixed by the shapes and stays up late one night to see what he can discover. He follows the magical stranger into the park and works with him through the night to transform the park into a veritable zoo! William falls asleep, but his new friend has left him a gift: pruning sheers of his own. Fall comes and the leaves blow away, making the fantastic tree animals disappear. Winter comes and spring returns, and even though the topiaries are no longer visible the town, the people and William have changed.
This is a heartwarming story about how transcendental art leaves a permanent trace behind. The illustrations bring the fantastic vision of the leafy animals to life in a very believable way. The artwork gives the story a wonderful, depression-era feel while still being timeless and even current in some ways. The message is deeply moving and illustrates how art, although temporary and ethereal, can leave a transformative and lasting effect on individuals and communities. Art brings light and laughter, and it elevates the ordinary into extraordinary. The book conveys that beauty doesn't have to last to leave a lasting legacy. The powerful message is communicated in only a few words with wonderfully beautiful artwork, making it a must-read book.