Sunday, February 27, 2022

Review: The Dancing Trees by Masiana Kelly, Illustrated by Michelle Simpson

by Masiana Kelly, Illustrated by Michelle Simpsom
Release Date: November 2, 2021
2021 Inhabit Media
ARC Edition: 32 Pages 
ISBN: 978-1772273694
Genre: Fiction / Children / Nature
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Thomas loves to tell stories. Big stories. Stories about how skilled he is on the land. But when one of his friends grows tired of his tall tales, Thomas has to prove how skilled he really is. Taking the challenge to spend a night alone in the forest, Thomas heads into the wilderness. The trees, who have heard his stories, watch him tear off their bark and litter as he goes. And so, while Thomas sleeps, they dance a dance that will leave Thomas with a very different kind of story to tell―if he can find his way home…
My Thoughts
The main idea of The Dancing Trees is to take care of the environment and to be careful that you are truthful, that you don't boast about things that you didn't do.  I really liked the message/themes of the book and think they are relevant to many of the concerns in today's society.  The illustrations were lovely and I did take my time looking at them as I know lots of illustrators include a lot of little nuggets if you pay a lot of attention.
What I really liked: I really liked the digital art as the colours were vivid, yet earthy, colours I love. As someone who loves hiking and canoe trekking, these pictures attracted my eye and I did spend a lot of time looking at them.  I also have a background in children's literature, so I tend to look to see if the illustrator has included any other little things that are easy to overlook in their artwork if you just flip through the pages.  
I read the book was originally published in Inuinnaqtun, so it is nice to see a children's book based on an Indigenous oral legend.  Everyone has exaggerated their exploits when they were young, and I liked how this book tackled that topic, to encourage truthfulness and that boasting will not be tolerated.  I loved listening to oral stories as a kid, and it is important for young children to understand the relevance these old legends have in today's society.
I did think the story was a bit wordy for young children, and when I did read to a couple of my neighbour's kids, they had trouble with the idea of Thomas going off into the forest by himself at such a young age.  I also had an issue with that, even though I know it's just a story, relevancy is important, and young children would definitely not spend the night along in a forest today.  And while I loved the message regarding the environment and how we have to protect it, I did think Thomas' quick turnaround was just that, way too quick.  He just seemed to change personalities and everything was forgiven without accountability, something else my young readers picked up on.  
The Dancing Trees was a charming book and I loved that it was based on an Indigenous oral legend.  I would definitely love to see more of those legends brought to life this way.  I did think the book was a bit wordy for a young child, and Thomas was able to change his ideas and behaviours way too quickly without being accountable for his actions.  Lovely artwork so I will definitely be looking for more from this illustrator as well.  I do recommend this book if you have young children who are interested in the environment.