Book Review: Big Tree

Big Tree

Whenever Brian Selznick puts out a new book, I am always an eager audience. Ever since The Invention of Hugo Cabret blew my mind when it came out, I have kept an eye on what he is doing. Not all of his books have landed as emotional for me as Hugo, but they are never dull literary experiences.

His recent book — Big Tree — is another glorious Selznick work of art — with a mix of silent pencil sketch drawings and a story about two little tree seeds on a journey of a lifetime (or many lifetimes, perhaps, given the span of years that book covers). In his afterword, Selznick tells how the story was started as a possible movie script with Steven Spielberg and then later, become the Big Tree book.

Informed by science about plants, animals, and the ancient world, Big Tree follows a sister and brother seed of a Sycamore tree in the time of the dinosaurs through the modern day, and along the way, the two seeds have adventures that bring them into contact with all sorts of wondrous creatures, including mushrooms that act as “ambassadors” of the forest through the interconnected fungi networks; rockweed (seaweed) under the ocean, where the seeds are trapped inside a shell; and more.

If you know his books, then you know to expect meticulous, beautiful, evocative pencil drawing and the artwork in Big Tree is no exception, as the story unfolds both in texts and in artwork, and the way Selznick brings the reader into the story through his pencil strokes — where you flip page after page after page, like a stopmotion scene unfolding on paper — is an interesting experience. (See excerpt)

This book has a central environmental theme coursing through the narrative, about how all of us have an obligation and a means to do something positive for the planet, even if we feel small and insignificant in the larger world.

Peace (and Plants),


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