I am thrilled to recommend a book from an author whom I have been following for a while on Facebook. Jo Marshall’s passion and activism for environmental issues and her love of the Pacific Northwest region are a constant source of inspiration to me.
Written by Jo Marshall
Illustrated by D.W. Murray
Ages: 8 – 12
Published by CreateSpace on November 17, 2011
Availability: Paperback and Kindle.
Themes: adventure, fantasy, environmentalism, beavers, glacial melt
Reviewed from own copy.
Synopsis: Our main protagonist, Leaf, is a Twig. ”Twigs are impish stick creatures – not much taller than robins. Tiny leaves sprout from their arms and legs, and their toes are very curly like roots. Their long, leafy hair can be many different colors – emerald, bronze, flaming red, and gold, for example”.
Leaf lives with his family (Pappo Needles, Mumma Ivy, younger sister Fern, and baby twin brothers Buddy and Burba) in the Old Seeder tree not far from the river known as Rushing Waters. Jo introduces us to various animals that inhabit this region. Her anthropomorphism is exemplary and beavers, chipmunks, squirrels etc retain their natural qualities while individual characters are portrayed in depth and detail. Leaf is a young Twig eager to prove his courage and valour. One night a huge storm causes the glacial ice dam way up in the peaks above the Old Seeder, to break, producing flooding down the valley. All the family except Leaf, are trapped in their not hole in the Old Seeder.
Following his father’s urgings Leaf sets off to find a renegade, but friendly Twig called Rustle, whose help he entreats to find the “chompers” (beavers), in whom Needles has confidence to save the Twig family. Leaf thus sets off on an epic adventure. He makes many new friends; “a hummer” (a hummingbird), the twigs Rustle and Feather, and Feather’s friends, the “chippies” (chipmunks); they battle enemies such as screechers (owls) and “poppers’ (prairie dogs) and eventually find the great granddaddy of the chompers, Slapper. Will these great dam-building beavers agree to help a skinny family of Twigs down the mountain? Is young Leaf brave and persuasive enough to persuade Slapper and his family to help?
Why I like this book: This is truly an epic adventure story with a young hero who sets out on a quest. The fate of his family lies in him overcoming the odds and succeeding. is both fast-moving and action-packed. The characters are superbly developed and believable in this mountaineous/forest world. Even Leaf’s baby twin brothers with their drooling and baby antics are appealing and unique individuals. The somewhat elf-like Twigs are an endearing creation with feisty characters one cheers along. Jo has done a great job in creating this natural world, with attention to detail in flora, fauna and plant life. The plot is filled with excitement and despite fairly detailed descriptive passages, moves along at a comfortable pace.
The black and white illustrations add just enough Twig world detail to urge back into the forest! Doesn’t the front cover just beckon you to adventure?
The environmental truths and concerns are subtly interwoven into the story, and middle grade readers will absorb the importance of the beavers and the concerns about glacial melt, without realizing they are being educated in this way. This is a great stand alone naturalistic adventure story, but also an asset to any middle grade classrooms looking at environmental issues. This novel is a charming well written fantasy that will appeal to a wide range of readers.
I am thrilled that a percentage of all profits from the sale of this and other Twigs Stories books are donated to nonprofit organizations involved with with wildlife protection, climate change research, nature conservancy, and forest preservation. Book two in the series is entitled LEAF AND THE SKY OF FIRE, and the third, just released this month, is LEAF AND THE LONG ICE. I can’t wait to read the sequels, and I am hoping we will encounter Feather and her chippies again, as I have a soft spot for this Twig!
The Twig Stories have their own website here.