One Thousand Trees (Kyle Hughes-Odgers, Fremantle Press)
A beautiful, dreamy contemplation, Kyle Hughes-Odgers’ One Thousand Trees merges a sparse narrative with illustrations that are tender, controlled and poignant. There is more the hint of a story than a full story, yet the book is no less rich because of it. The sentence ‘Deep in the heart of the city, Frankie dreams of a thousand trees’ bookends a series of prepositions (‘beneath’, ‘around’, ‘amidst’, ‘up’…), which comprise the rest of the story. The watercolour illustrations fill each page with diaphanous, stylised images of the trees of which Frankie dreams. The prepositions appear as painted text on each page and take on the same textures and colour as the corresponding illustrations, integrating the language beautifully with the imagery. Each page offers a new way that Frankie might embrace the trees, and there is a rich subtext about the human need to escape the bleak blue-grey palette and sharp angles of the city for the movement, freedom and comfort of nature. The book’s simplicity will facilitate engagement for very young readers still learning relational vocabulary, while Frankie’s journey to connect with the natural world also encourages more complex readings for older children of how we might incorporate such needs into urban life.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is an editor, writer and bookseller at the Hobart Bookshop