Once there was a tree
Pictures by Gennady Spirin
Ages 4 to 7
Penguin, 1989, 0-8037-0705-3
There was a tree which had began to grow old and one day, during a storm, a bolt of lightning "split the tree in two." A woodman came along and cut the tree down so that all that was left of the tree was a stump.
Now some may think that this would be the end of the tree's story but it was not, for many creatures still relied on the stump and claimed it for their own. There was the bark beetle who laid her eggs under its bark and thus chose it to be the nursery for her babies; there were the ants who dug tunnels through the wood and made it their home; there was the bear who used the stump to sharpen her claws; there was the earwig who had a nap under the bark. Then a man came walking in the woods and stopped to rest, sitting on the stump. The man believed that the whole forest, and the stump, belonged to him.
So who did "own" the stump after all? Was it the man, the bear, the earwig, or the ants?
In the end no one and everyone owns the stump. When the stump rots away and a new tree grows in its place all the animals can share the tree, building their homes in it, resting under it, and enjoying it. Just like the earth the tree is "home for all."
This incredibly beautiful book with its unadorned story, its beautiful illustrations, and its powerful message is a treasure. Readers will come to recognize that the stump and the tree can be viewed as symbols for all of nature's gifts and also for the earth itself. They all belong to all of us, big and small, two-legged or more legged.
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