When drought spreads through the land of the short grass, the animals set out across the great flat plain in search of something to eat. At last they come to a miraculous tree with fruit "as red as pomegranates, as yellow as bananas, as green as melons, as purple as plums, as orange as mangos." But the tree is so tall and its branches so high that even the giraffe can't reach the delicious fruit. In her graceful retelling of an old Bantu folk tale, celebrated storyteller and children's writer Celia Barker Lottridge shows how effort and determination, not necessarily talent, can save the day. The animals learn that the tree will lower its branches to those who know its name. So they send the gazelle (the fastest animal) and then the elephant (the animal with the best memory) to ask the name of the tree from their king, the lion, in the jungle. When both of these proud creatures fail, it's up to a young tortoise to find out the tree's name from the increasingly vexed lion king and remember it all the way back across the desert.
Ian Wallace, whose many exquisite picture books include Boy of the Deeps and Duncan's Way, creates a stunning backdrop of lightly coloured yet remarkably expressive illustrations for The Name of the Tree. The arid African plains take on a life of their own in these hot, hazy pictures, while Wallace's tree, with its long, twisting trunk, bright red branches, and luscious fruit, pulses with energy like a human heart. Winner of the Mr. Christie's Book Award, The Name of the Tree is recognized as a Canadian classic. (Ages 3 to 8) --Lisa Alward
A lively African folktale that celebrates effort rather than talent...A strong read-aloud, handsomely illustrated. (Booklist
The steady cadence of the text makes the story a worthy addition to the storytelling shelf, and young readers should also find it satisfying reading. (School Library Journal
The story moves quickly in an easy, conversational style. (Horn Book