This is a heavy book in physical weight because of the high quality paper and printing invested within. It is made heavier by a cover byline from Ruskin Bond and a back cover recommendation by Vandana Shiva. So, I write this review with an equally heavy heart, knowing that I am treading yet another heavy landmine of attempting to be fair and balanced at all times between creative producers and users of creative products like books.
The Talking Tree is perhaps written with the best intention of reminding us about the beauty and purpose of the natural world, but written in a rather unnatural way. There are too many elements and a jumping storyline that shifts from a ghost in a monument to a homeless single bird (when there is a tree around, why would a bird look elsewhere, single or otherwise?) to land grabbers to friendly neighbours in balloons, clouds and rainbows and superhero boys! Are all these things symbolic is some way, I pause to wonder, but only briefly.
The story appears to begin with a boy, a tree and a ghost, then veers to a single bird and the generous tree and free furnishings from the universe. This happy motel gets mucked up when “burly men” in a car clamp down on the tree. The single bird makes good her debts by freeing the tree to talk. Did the land grabbers who stopped the tree from talking come back? How did that get resolved? What role did that ghost and the monument have in this story? And, if we are not in a muddle already, this text is written in verse with dramatically enlarged fonts and, at the end of the forty-fifth page of this book, you are happy to know it ends well, for your sake if not the universe alone.
What prompts you to turn the pages is to enjoy the illustrative style of distinctiveness that Priya Kuriyan brings to all her work and perhaps this is one of the most redeeming features of The Talking Tree.
By Sujata Noronha
Author: Sagari Chhabra
Illustrator: Priya Kuriyan
Natraj Publishers, 2014
Subject Category: Contemporary/Fiction/Picture Book