Review: The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear, illus. Chris Turnham
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 27, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Verdict: Very Good
Charles wants to find a wish tree. His brother and sister don’t believe there is such a thing, but his trusty companion Boggan is ready to join Charles on a journey to find out. And along the way, they discover that wishes can come true in the most unexpected ways.
The poetic text and heartwarming illustrations evoke the true essence of the holiday season and will inspire wishers everywhere. This gem of a book deserves center stage year round.
“La-di-da-di-da-di-daaaa,” sang Charles.
“Whishhhhh,” sang Boggan.
From the time I first read a picture book written by Kyo Maclear– I believe it was Spork a number of years ago!- I have been a major fan of her work. Every time I hear or see the news that the author has a new book out, it is immediately added to my must-read list. The Wish Tree– written by Kyo, and the illustrative debut of Chris Turnham– was, of course, included right away on my reading list! Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I had the absolutely pleasure of meeting Kyo recently for a library event. The event was for a talk about her background, her picture book process, and her latest picture book, The Wish Tree. It was one of those surreal and wonderful moments for me (as a book enthusiast, reviewer, librarian, lover of books) to meet someone whose work I’ve held in high esteem for years! Now back to my thoughts on The Wish Tree…!
In the opening of The Wish Tree, we meet Charles and his friend Boggan (a smiling, thoughtful toboggan). Charles is on the search for a wish tree, and while his brother and sister do not believe such a thing exists, Boggan thinks there must be such a thing. So off the two of them go together, deep into the snowy woods. On their way to find a wish tree, Charles and Boggan kindly stop to help animals in need: they help beavers gather birch wood, they help foxes gather berries, and they help a squirrel bring hazelnuts to his home. While it seems as though Boggan and Charles will never find their wish tree before night falls, something wondrous happens involving the animals they have helped that leads to the final search for their wish tree and a celebration in the wintry woods.
Chris Turnham’s illustrations- engaging and darling, with an eye for both detail and background- are a terrific match for Kyo’s quietly rhythmic, beguiling text. Just one look at Boggan’s cheerful can-do face against the backdrop of the snowy woods, with he and Charles singing their song together is but one prime example of how the two artists have melded their vision together. A delightful tale with a dose of magical elements, The Wish Tree is a also a story where parts are left up to the reader and/or listener; certain elements involving Charles’ and Boggan’s journey to the wish tree and the time with the animals are free to the imagination and thoughts of the reader. I initially had some doubt about how, about two-thirds of the way in, the story seems to swiftly shift gears to the even more fanciful and dreamlike. However, upon rereads and reflection, I find myself more and more appreciative of the wondering and open nature of the story’s climax and end.
Overall, The Wish Tree is a winsome picture book about kindheartedness and wonder. It could make for a great seasonal read aloud, a cozy quiet read, or for an on-theme read about friendship and thoughtfulness…and it may even inspire some to create their own variations of a ‘wish tree’! Readers who have already read and loved Kyo Maclear’s previous titles will undoubtedly enjoy this. Readers who love the slightly fantastical and lovely in their picture books- along the lines of Extra Yarn, Lenny & Lucy, or The Tea Party in the Woods– might especially savour this enchantingly told and adorably illustrated book.
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.