The Lonely Pine
Publication Date: August 2011
Categories: Nature & the Natural World - General
There is a treeline far to the North, a point on Earth at which the harshness of climate and scarcity of sunlight and precipitation prevent trees from growing any closer to the North Pole. Trees became smaller and sparser until, finally, there are no more. The lonely pine is the world's northernmost tree. Through poetic prose and elegant illustrations, readers will travel to an inhospitable but beautiful realm, accompanying this stunted yet resilient tree as it experiences a year's worth of Arctic sights, changes, and hardships. Facing extreme isolation, brutal cold, and threats from both man and animal, will the lonely pine live on?
Aaron Frisch is an editor and author who has written many nonfiction books for children and young adults. The Lonely Pine is his third Creative Editions picture book, after 2008's Dark Fiddler: The Life and Legend of Nicolo Paganini and 2010's A Night on the Range.
Etienne Delessert is a renowned Swiss-American artist and author who has been creating acclaimed children's books for decades. Among his many picture book credits are I Hate to Read!, Hungry for Numbers, I Still Hate to Read!, Moon Theater, and Spartacus the Spider.
In the far north, where weather and light conditions prevent any growth, a small, singular pine tree stands. Around it, seasons come and go, polar bears pass by, and arctic foxes take temporary refuge under its boughs. When summer arrives, moths and other insects flutter on the needles, and in the fall, a weary owl pauses for a moment. Winter brings the aurora borealis and a sled-dog team heading south. This is a story of quiet reflection, and the book's most notable feature is the artwork. Detailed drawings in ink and watercolor using dark greens, golds, and other earth tones depict framed scenes of nature on one side, facing a calendar from 1945 that shows the passing of the months. The book is not heavy on plot, but rather sets a mood for considering the beauty of nature. Overall, a nice meditative piece.
Frisch (A Night on the Range) writes a free-verse tale about a year in the life of a solitary, stunted pine tree far above the Arctic tree line: "[T]he pine knew nothing of other trees./ It thought itself adequate." Delessert (Spartacis the Spider) draws luminous portraits of the animals the pine encounters opposite pages with Frisch's verses and the image of a yellowed calendar. In April, a fox takes shelter under the pine's boughs. In June, the weather warms, and musk oxen arrive: "A forest of fur encircled the pine,/ its branches of horn swirling the steam." In September, the cold returns; in December, a musher approaches. "The man leaned on an ax and considered the pine./ Then he took up his things./ The barking slid south." It's the only human intrusion. Most of the book's movement is found in Frisch's somber observations and the wealth of information in Delessert's work; the traces of ravens' wings in the snow, the fox's wary golden eyes, the moth settled on a single pine needle. In the hands of this pair, the Arctic feels as rich and mysterious as the jungle. Ages 9-up.