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A spectacular time-lapse portrait of humankind—and our impact on the natural world—from a Caldecott Honor–winning master of the wordless form
In an alternate past—or possible future—a mighty tree stands on the banks of a winding river, bearing silent witness to the flow of time and change. A family farms the fertile valley. Soon, a village sprouts, and not long after, a town. Residents learn to harness the water, the wind, and the animals in order to survive and thrive. The growing population becomes ever more industrious and clever, bending nature itself to their will and their ambition: redirecting rivers, harvesting lumber, reshaping the land, even extending daylight itself. . . .
The Tree and the River is an epic time-lapse reimagining of human civilization from a master of the wordless form, and a thought-provoking meditation on the relationship between two mighty forces: nature and humankind.
About the Author
Aaron Becker is the best-selling author of the award-winning Journey trilogy, along with several other books for children young and old. His love of travel led him to the city of Granada, Spain, where a rich history of layered civilizations inspired him to write The Tree and the River. To prepare for the story's illustrations, he first constructed a scale model of the book's rolling landscape, which he then slowly transformed with clay and wood over many months. When he’s not home with his wife and two daughters, Aaron Becker can be found creating something new in his studio in western Massachusetts.
Having established himself as a picture-book creator unafraid of taking the long view, Becker offers an oddly comforting look at how wars, floods, and humanity itself can pass in just a blink of an eye. . . . Look upon this work, ye mighty picture-book creators, and despair. A stunning accomplishment.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Esteemed illustrator of wordless books, Aaron Becker, presents a new offering which takes on the environment and industrialization. . . . Whether using this as a lap book where the reader can appreciate the details of each setting or as a commentary on the importance of being good stewards of the land, this title serves as a beautifully crafted cautionary tale.
—School Library Connection (starred review)
In this spectacular wordless tale that takes a long view of time’s passing, Becker (Journey) spotlights a single tree’s life cycle against a changing backdrop of human conflicts, technological change, and natural events. . . . In a sweeping, carefully detailed work that’s visually reminiscent of Anno’s Journey, Becker distills a lengthy timeline into bite-size rises and falls whose beats offer hope and solace for the long term.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Becker explores many big ideas—including war, humanity’s impact on the environment, and the resilience of nature over time—through a science-fiction lens. . . . The pencil, gouache, and digitally painted illustrations are imaginative, precise, and enigmatic. . . Becker’s world-building feels cinematic thanks to his dramatic use of color and light. This picture book is sure to spark much discussion regarding humanity’s relationships with and responsibilities toward one another and the natural world.
—The Horn Book (starred review)
Becker delivers another wordless tale with highly detailed illustrations that readers will pore over as they follow the story of the rise and fall of a civilization and nature’s ever-present witness to the endeavors of humankind. . . . Becker’s illustrations are fascinating to behold and his wordless storytelling could serve as a prompt to begin a unit on the development of human civilization or the impact of people on the environment. Fascinating and thought-provoking, this title deserves a spot next to Becker’s other masterpieces of visual storytelling. Thoughtful and highly engaging.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Whole societies are encompassed in the fixed panels of Aaron Becker’s latest wondrous wordless picture book, proffering awesome reminders of both the impacts and impermanence of human progress.
—Foreword Reviews (starred review)
Aaron Becker, teller of the brilliant wordless fantasies ‘Journey,’ ‘Quest’ and ‘Return,’ brings children ages 4-10 to a sumptuous but disquieting destination in 'The Tree and the River,' a picture book that presents a time-lapse portrait of an imagined riverine valley. . . . Mr. Becker’s lines are as delicate as ever, and, as in his other books, he introduces fanciful touches of warmth and intriguing details.
—The Wall Street Journal
A smartly drawn, creative take on our cyclical world. . . . that’s Becker for you. He’ll make budding anthropologists and archaeologists out of the lot of them. The Tree and the River. A book unafraid to assume that your kids are smart enough to figure out what it all means.
—A Fuse #8 Production