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Review of The Branch

messier_branchThe Branch
by Mireille Messier; illus. by Pierre Pratt
Primary    Kids Can    32 pp.
9/16    978-1-77138-564-0    $16.95

A little girl mourns when a large branch breaks off from her favorite tree during an ice storm: “That was the branch I sat on, jumped from, played under. It was my castle, my spy base, my ship…” As she stands guard over the branch so the cleanup crew won’t take it away or — horrors! — chop it up, she strikes up a conversation with next-door neighbor Mr. Frank. Luckily, he makes things from salvaged wood: “With some imagination, each broken piece can become something great!” The little girl studies the branch to see what’s hiding inside the wood. When she figures it out, she whispers it to Mr. Frank, and together they make a plan. This is the premise for a small but satisfying story of intergenerational friendship, cooperation, creativity, and the labor that goes into creating something worthwhile. Pratt’s art is, as ever (Where’s Pup?, rev. 3/03; That New Animal, rev. 3/05), partly expressionistic/childlike and partly painterly/glorious. Cool wintry colors dominate on the double-page spreads that show the beauty and destructiveness of the ice storm; warmer colors bring out the literal and figurative warmth inside Mr. Frank’s workshop, where the two bond over their joint project. Thick brushstrokes prevail, whether on bold double-page spreads of the wintry landscape, or in the several page-turns of spot art that document the weeks of work it takes for the little girl and Mr. Frank to unlock the branch’s potential and turn it into…a swing.

From the November/December 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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