In the canny world of kids’ publishing, the mood of 2021 is exemplified by a verdant sweep of environmentally conscious books. Amongst the very best is The Girl Who Talked to Trees by Natasha Farrant, the tale of 11-year-old Olive, whose best friend in the world just happens to be a four-hundred year old oak tree. When her beloved tree comes under threat, Olive is swept into a world of arboreal magic, on a mission of salvation and conservation. This little girl who talks to trees is about to discover that they’re a voluble bunch.
Blessed with a magnificently grand family home, Olive is surrounded by lawns and greenery. In days of yore, the grounds had been part of a great forest, the hunting grounds of a prince no less. Now merely a modest wood, it’s still home to a variety of lovely trees and Olive’s absolute favourite is a sturdy oak that stands proudly in the meadow opposite her home. The shy, bookish young girl spends her days reading and dreaming in its leafy company, an idyll that is abruptly cut short when her father, in a bid to impress the neighbours, decides to chop it down and build a fancy-pants summer house instead.
A distraught Olive begs her oak tree for guidance, and in the best tradition of children’s tales, her wish is granted, and she is drawn into a magical time-warp where the beautiful trees of the wood share their life stories. We learn of underwater kelp forests, the drift of apple blossom trees across the world, the bad-tempered box tree, and the air-cleaning plane, beloved of cities like London. If Olive can share everything she’s learned with her father, maybe he’ll reconsider his plans.
This gorgeously illustrated hardback peppers the magic with science and an exhortation to realise ‘the responsibility we have towards the things we change.’
The ideal gift for nature-loving bookworms.
The Girl Who Talked to Trees by Natasha Farrant is published by Zephyr, 240 pages.