T. A. Barron
Philomel Books, Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2001
A lovely little story about a young girl who longs for the mother she never knew – or knew somewhere in a dream.
Rowanna, ‘Anna’, a girl of about 9 who lives on a narrow strip of beach with her crusty old guardian, dances on the beach and sings songs of longing. She chats happily with the large old tree near their cabin, ‘Old Burl’, befriends a sparrow fledgling with one good wing, and imagines having a friend to spend time with. She has her guardian, Mellwyn but he is mostly out to sea catching their food and when he is home he is very grumpy.
Mellwyn, old fisherman and curmudgeon, found Anna under a willow tree many years ago and brought her home to raise. He has forbidden her to go into the forest behind their house for fear of the ghouls that reside there and want to take her away from him. But he is harboring a dark secret – a secret that may cause him to lose Anna forever.
Sasharash, at first appearing to Anna as a sand-colored bear, she eventually recognizes him for who he truly is – a tree spirit. He and Anna grow close over the summer and he finally agrees to take her to the High Willow (the tree Mellwyn found her under) because she instinctively knows the tree will somehow lead her to her mother.
Eagle, the little sparrow with one good wing. He doesn’t say much but he is important to Anna, and therefore, important to the story.
Such a sweet book! I love how the trees are magical and wise. As a light fantasy with just a bit of magic, it will appeal to many children (aged 6 – 99+) who love trees, nature, and are familiar with a sense of longing for something – even if they don’t know what that something is.
Rating: 4 paws out of 5