tuck everlasting, a wrinkle in time, and nancy drew: some trees in children's literature

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This summer I'll be continuing my studies to become an elementary school teacher by taking a class in children's literature. In preparation for the class, I've been looking at some classics of children's literature and I couldn't help noticing and highlighting a few beautiful (and not insignificant) passages about trees. One of these is in Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting - a book I remember reading as a child.


Babbitt writes in the prologue that Treegap wood "was at the center, the hub of the wheel" that connects the events and the people in her story. We soon learn that at the center of the wood, there is an ash tree.

In the end, however, it was the cows who were responsible for the wood's isolation, and the cows, through some wisdom they were not wise enough to know that they possessed, were very wise indeed. If they had made their road through the wood instead of around it, then the people would have followed the road. The people would have noticed the giant ash tree at the center of the wood, and then, in time, they'd have noticed the little spring bubbling up among its roots in spite of the pebbles piled there to conceal it. And that would have been a disaster so immense that this weary old earth...would have trembled on its axis like a beatle on a pin.

Okay, I'm hooked!

Another classic tale I'm reading (this one for the first time!) is A Wrinkle in Time by  Madeline L'Engle. (Dang, is this book good. So glad it wasn't wasted on 13 year-old me.)


This book also has a wood at the center of the story. The story begins with Meg in her attic bedroom listening to the trees lash against the roof during a storm. She goes downstairs where her brother, Charles Wallace, tells her of his discovery in the woods:

"You know the old shingled house back in the woods that the kids won't go near because they say it's haunted? That's where they live."
"Mrs Whatsit and her two friends."

Mrs. Whatsit tells Meg and Charles Wallace that their father is trapped in the fifth dimension, and "Silence fell between them, as tangible as the dark tree shadows that fell across their laps and that now seemed to rest upon them as heavily as though they possessed a measurable weight of their own." When the kids begin their journey through time and space to rescue their father, the trees signal the sudden shift: "There was still the sound of leaves, a terrified, terrifying rushing..." And when they arrive on the planet Uriel:

They were standing on a sunlit field, and the air about them was moving with the delicious fragrance that comes only on the rarest of spring days when the sun's touch is gentle and the apple blossoms are just beginning to unfold....They had left the silver glint of a biting autumn evening; and now around them everything was golden with light.

I remember thinking as a kid that these long descriptions were so boring, but these are amazing and give you such a vivid sense of what the kids are experiencing. I am surprised at how the trees can be used to communicate so much about their feelings and surroundings.

Another book I've started is the second book in the Nancy Drew series, The Hidden Staircase (a series that I used to LOVE!).


Unfortunately it does not hold up. Wow, are these stories lame. Like A Wrinkle in Time (and I'm sure this is the only similarity), The Hidden Staircase is also about a haunted house. The house, which I assume contains a hidden staircase, is named Twin Elms. That sounds promising but here's what we read as Nancy sees the house for the first time:

From the road one could see little of the house. A high stone wall ran along the front of he estate and beyond it were many tall trees. Nancy turned into the driveway which twisted and wound among elms, oaks, and maples. Presently the old Colonial house came into view. Helen said it had been built in 1785 and had been given its name because of the two elm trees which stood at opposite ends of the building. They had grown to be giants and their foliage was beautiful.
'It's charming!' Nancy commented.

Oh, well, thank goodness Nancy told us it was charming. Because that description didn't. It sounded like it was from a rental listing or something: "Charming tree-lined view. With ghost."

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Alison published on July 3, 2011 9:30 AM.

the honeylocust, still a mystery was the previous entry in this blog.

some german trees is the next entry in this blog.

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