Quill & Quire
This first picture book by artist and filmmaker Nicholas Oldland is a warm-hearted fable for the very young. Issues of conservation, confrontation, and love for all living things are spun together in the humorous and charming story of a bear who loves to hug everything – even creatures that other bears might be inclined to eat or attack. When this affectionate, tree-loving bear encounters a man with an axe looking to cut down one of the oldest, tallest, and most beautiful trees in the forest, the bear’s mood changes, but he quickly realizes that non-violent action may be just as effective as angry confrontation. Oldland tells his fable in simple but memorable prose, with unobtrusive rhyme and repetition: “Big trees. Little trees. Apple trees. Pear trees. Peach trees. This bear hugged them all.” There is delicate irony when the bear sees the woodsman spending “so much time looking at this magnificent tree that the bear thought he must love trees, too.” The logger is not demonized, but shown as somewhat naive and comically unaware. A small red bird follows the bear everywhere and participates in the action as a kind of stand-in for the child hearing the story. Like some of the startled creatures the bear hugs, we discover that big scary creatures may be benevolent; like the bear, we learn that bad intentions exist in the world, but are best counteracted by goodness and love rather than by force. Stylized trees and animals and a limited colour palate keep the focus on the words and story, and make for an attractive and appealing book.
This debut is a treat for the tree hugger in all of us.
... an attractive and appealing book.
... the book’s quick humor makes it easy to embrace.
Oldland’s rustic-styled digital artwork looks like a hip flannel pajama print ... and his pictures play sly comic foil to the earnest text.