By Micha Archer, Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Random House), 2021
My four (and a half) year old daughter won’t let me read this book to her anymore. She has to read it to me. After just a few times times through, she had memorised the whole book and now only she is allowed to read it. (I can prompt if there’s a hesitation.) She willing reads it to her brother too, if she needs to entertain him for a time – like while he’s holding two pieces of cardboard together so the glue can dry on a temple they’re building together.
I asked her what her liked so much about it. No response. I tried again. How does it make her feel? ‘Feelings of joy’ she said, ‘and being adventurish’. She’s right. This is a book that sweeps you up in wonder and joy and delight at the amazing world to be explored – and share it.
The sharing is an important part – the story is a conversation between two children, we think of them as brother and sister but they could be cousins or friends. The two set out on a ‘wonder walk’ together roaming the landscape, asking questions that brim with curiosity. The world they share together, and with us as we read, is a world of wonder, of imagination, and of heartfelt empathy with the natural world. The gorgeous illustrations, full of rich colour and exquisite detail, add another layer. My favourite question is ‘Are roots the plant’s toes?’, in part for the colourful peek beneath the surface of the soil.
After she has read to us, we all stop, and tell each other our favourite questions.
‘Are shells the shore’s necklace?’ my daughter asks. ‘Are rivers the earth’s veins?’
How will we protect what we do not value? How can we not protect what we do? This book complements and encourages my children’s growing wonder and joy at the natural world, their whimsy and imagination. I hope they can be like the children in the book, roaming freely, marvelling at and exploring this precious planet. Most of all, I want to protect my children, all our children, and their future.