Out Today! Trees: A Rooted History by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski

Review Copy Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers

Where to Get Trees: A Rooted History

[Affiliate Link] Amazon 
[Local Bookstore] Indiebound
[Library] Worldcat

How’s the cover image for you? Is it big enough? I hope so! I was trying to make it really big. I want it to fill your screen so that you can get a sense of how big this book is. It’s not particularly thick, all told it is 72 pages, but wow, it is a TALL book. Which I think is perfect, because this book is all about trees and trees are, well, tall. Please let me know if the cover is somehow warped for you, but I really hope I’ve succeed in adequately expressing the bigness of this book.

That, and I wanted you to be able to get an up-close look at the illustrations – because aren’t they completely stunning?

In Trees: A Rooted History, the illustrations on each page are so carefully and delicately crafted that they give us a transcendent-like visual experience that evokes a sense of wonder and awe.

I’m deeply impressed with how this book uses the picture book format to translate the beauty and magnificence of trees in such a way that gives us a new perspective and new appreciation. The art deftly indulges our eyes and focuses our attention on how incredible trees are.

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From Trees: A Rooted History by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski. Image courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

I’m also impressed with how many different angles this picture book takes on. Naively I assumed that this would be strictly a botanically-based book, but it’s much more than that. Trees: A Rooted History skillfully shows not just the evolution and history of trees themselves – it also introduces readers to how trees have shaped humanity, animals, and the environment.

The font in this book is on the smaller side. So you may have to squint, search, break out the bifocals, or use your finger to keep your place – but I promise you whatever you have to do to read the text is worth it. The design choice here makes a lot of sense, the small font size lets the illustrations have the attention from observers that it deserves without requiring the content of the writing to be sacrificed. And you really want to read everything written in this book because the writing is so compelling and well-done, the information so fascinating, that it is worth any additional effort you may have to do to read it.

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From Trees: A Rooted History by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski. Image courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

The wide-variety of topics include: What is a Tree? Leaves, Roots, The Four Seasons, Spreading Seeds, Endemic Species, Boababs, Tree Eaters, Tree Dwellers, Clever Camouflage, Prehistoric Trees, The Tallest Trees, The Broadest Trees (Árbol del Tule! 38 feet in diameter and about 1,500 years old – according to this book! Incredible!), The Oldest Trees (5,062 years old!), Rings of History (image above) – and I love how this book gives tidbits of history in relation to this 3,266 year-old tree. It gives you such a sense of perspective and a sense of how profound (heavy? staggering? difficult? I’m struggling with the right word here, but I think you understand) the loss of such old trees can be.

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From Trees: A Rooted History by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski. Image courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

But this book isn’t anti-lumberjack or felling trees, in fact, I think it’s quite respectful of the industry and how much their work provides us. The authors are very aware of how important trees are to our daily life in books, desks, houses…in everything.

More topics include: Lumberjacks, Building with Wood, Wooden Transportation, Wooden Art, Wooden Instruments, Treehouses (this section was very much a hit in our house), Bonsai trees, The Art of Topiary, The Tree of Evolution, Family Trees, Trees in Religion, Sacred Trees, Forest Tales, Tree Monsters (think Ents from The Lord of the Rings), The Power of Nature (specifically the Ta Prohm temple in Cambodia and the tree that has gorgeously and almost magically grown over an abandoned city), Natural Forest, and Trees for the Future.

trees 2 - Out Today! Trees: A Rooted History by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski
From Trees: A Rooted History by Piotr Socha and Wojciech Grajkowski. Image courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

And while the illustrations of the trees have a very serious and mature beauty to them – the depictions of people are all goofy. Lots of different people from all over the world are depicted and they’re all equally goofy, and at times downright silly. This levity of the cartoon humans and animals is a nice balance with the elegant trees.

My sons, eight and five, enjoy this book immensely. They ask so many questions when we look at it that getting through this book has taken us awhile. Their most common question while reading it is has been, “Really? Is that true?” It’s been a lot of fun to see their reactions to this book.

Trees A Rooted History is a stunning and ambitious work. I really hope you get a chance to read and experience this book and I hope it imparts on you the same awareness and gravity of how incredible, crazy, glorious, and important trees are – because I haven’t been looking at the world the same way since reading it and I love the new perspective gained from reading this enchanting book.

Trees: A Rooted History was originally published in Polish by Wydawnictwo Dwie Siostry, Warsaw under the title Drzewa (Polish for Trees) and masterfully translated by Anna Burgess.

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

FTC Disclosures:  Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links and others are IndieBound affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit.  It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.

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