My son was asked by Ms. Marshall if he would read and review this book on his homeschool blog. He agreed, and he’s still plugging away at it, but it was a pretty large undertaking for a low reader. In the meantime, I picked up the book and beat him to the punch.
The setting for this book is breathtaking. It features small stick-like critters called Twigs which live in a northern forest that’s so beautifully depicted you can almost smell the pine needles. It therefore lends itself quite naturally to some strong ecological themes, which I have mixed feelings about, but more on that later.
Leaf is a young Twig who lives in the southern part of the forest, which is lush and green. But an old, sick Twig lands on his doorstep with a story of destruction. The northern part of the forest is under attack, and a handful of orphaned young Twigs need to be rescued. Leaf takes it upon himself to help them, and this is the tale of his adventure.
Twig Stories is a series aimed at a young audience. I would probably place it at a third to fourth grade reading level, but I think fourth grade is the top of the age group to which the books would most strongly appeal. The content is very mild—Leaf mostly faces wild animals and natural disasters—so it would work well as a read-aloud for little guys as young as kindergarten, but first to third grade is probably the ideal range. And this is a great age to teach kids about conservation and stewardship, which the book strongly promotes.
Okay, now it’s time for my more scientific opinions. Having just returned from a vacation in the Smokey Mountains, I hugely appreciate the efforts undertaken to preserve and protect our natural resources. There’s nothing like wild forests and mountains to help a body refocus. But I also feel that ecology has become a sacred religion in this country, one I don’t totally buy into. I might lose some friends over this statement, but if the earth really is warming, who cares? It’s undergone climate change before. There’s evidence that the earth has been much more tropical in the past as well as much cooler, yet people, plants and animals have all survived. Our genetics are created to adapt, and adapt we will. However, this book didn’t throw out too many of those dire, wearisome predictions. It’s lauded by those who do in a series of endorsements included among the front material, but the story focuses more on invasive species and maintaining healthy forests, which I can rally behind.
That aside, how’d I like the story? It’s cute, but I did do a lot of skimming. There’s loads of description, and not the snappy kind. It’s very serious in tone, and some parts are a bit sappy sweet. But the characters are endearing and the illustrations by David Murray are drop dead gorgeous. Leaf and the Sky of Fire is a bit slow for my tastes, but well-suited for little eyes and ears. I truly appreciate the pains Ms. Marshall took to maintain that innocence for them.