The Family Tree
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The Family Tree

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  109 ratings  ·  31 reviews
A man in the 1800s comes upon a beautiful forest and decides to build his home there. When he clears the land, he leaves one special tree to grace his front yard. Over the years, several generations of his family enjoy this tree, but it is endangered by a plan to build a highway. A young boy and his host of animal friends get together to make a stand, and give back to the...more
40 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
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Melissa
David McPhail is awesome and his illustrations have a quiet centeredness to them that really works for this story. I liked the passage of time in the first half of the book but the second half worked less well for me. I'm torn between wanting to introduce concepts such as environmentalism and activism on a child-appropriate level and also wanting to represent the world accurately to children: I am too much a cynic to believe that any road is going to be diverted just because a child says so, and...more
Richie Partington
Richie's Picks: THE FAMILY TREE by David McPhail, Henry Holt, March 2012, 32p., ISBN: 978-0-8050-9057-4

"Far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees"
--Bob Dylan

"He chopped down trees to make fields for his crops and pastures for his animals. But he left one tree standing. It would provide shade for his house during the long hot summers and act as a buffer against the chilly winter winds."

The squirrel from David McPhail's MOLE MUSIC is back! Or maybe it's that squirrel's great-great-gr...more
Tasha
This is the story of a very special tree. It was left standing when the rest of the space was cleared to build a house many years ago. This tree would shelter the little house. It witnessed many changes over the years as horse and wagon changed to cars. There were births and deaths on the farm, until finally it was the great-great grandson of the original building of the home who lived there. The tree still stood, strong and straight. But then it was threatened as a new road was planned that wou...more
Andi Martineau
The Family Tree is about a man long ago who moves into a new area. He cuts down many trees to build a new house and make a pasture for his cattle. The man however leaves one tree standing that he comes to love. As time goes on he has a family and his boys have a family. Many years later his great-great-grandson is now living on the farm and has also fallen in love with the tree. One day workers come to cut the tree down so that they can build a new road. The little boy protests and soon the road...more
Jazmyne Henry
This is a fiction story of a little boy who unites with his animal friends for a good cause. When the tree that has been in his family for generations is going to be cut down, The young boy protests with his animal friends to save the tree. In the end, the young boy and the construction workers create a plan that works for everyone. As a Literacy teacher I would use this text on Earth Day or Arbor Day to show the importance of the environment. The students can also use this text to find out what...more
Karen Arendt
Charming story of a man who travels west in the late 1800s to build a house, leave the house and return with a wife, then raise his family there. As he is clearing the land, he leaves one tree standing for shade in the summer and protection from the wind in the winter. generations later, his descendants are sill living in the house and a great great grandchild protects the house from modernization. McPhail's illustrations are full of colorful browns, and greens with a solid white border around e...more
Kristina Lareau
These watercolor and ink illustrations are typical of McPhail's style--well done and detailed. The book itself provides a great--albeit overdone--message. It immediately called to mind Gary Crew's and Shaun Tan's The Memorial as well as Virginia Lee Burton's The Little House. Either way, it is worth a read, though it doesn't cover any new ground.
Meghan
Dec 01, 2012 Meghan added it
This story is about a tree that is planted and how it serves various purposes throughout generations. Eventually, the tree is going to be cut down to widen the road that runs by the house. The little boy who lives in the house, the great-great grandson of the man who planted the tree does what he can to save the tree. Nearby forest animals come to the aid of the boy and the tree is saved to be enjoyed by future generations.
Dylan
The art is lovely, and the narrative moves along, but it's rather painful and tortured. We're sad to see the pioneer cut down a forest (portrayed unremoursefully), and then meant to feel happy that one tree was saved? Saved by having a highway skirt it? A very sad tale of "progress," one that left my 5 yr old a bit conflicted. Can't blame her.
Bree
I really wanted to like this book but I ended up skipping the words of the story and telling my own. It just was too much for my class without actually using a lot of words. I was bored with it and wished that this week when I read it wasn't so chaotic or else I would have read it ahead of time and realized that is was a no go before I started on it.
Nicole
This book makes a little sad...in the same way that Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree does. We follow a family - and their favorite tree - through the years. When the highway needs to come through the area, a little boy and his animal friends save the tree...but then the tree is located directly next to a giant highway in the end. :(
Carol
Another beautiful picture book by David McPhail, he never disappoints. I don't think I could do this one for story time because I'm not sure I can get through the part where old generations leave the family and the little boy is standing next to the grave without crying. Beautifully done!!!
Chris
When I flipped through it I thought for sure my kids and I would be in tears as the boy defends his family tree from a new row expansion. We weren't. It didn't click for us on that level. Maybe it was a bit forced, or for me it was distracting having the word bubbles, and the regular text.
Julia Jasztal
(Mommy's review from 5/12)


This is okay but it's hardly worthy of 5 stars IMO. Julia liked it well enough but it's not wordy enough for either of us. We both agreed we really liked the subject, the little boy, what he does, etc. but the story just didn't deliver for us.
Kim Patton
Shows the history of a tree from the time the land was settled through the years. Finally a young boy must save the tree when a roadway is going to be put where the tree stands. Beautiful illustrations and text that is easy to understand.
Peacegal
In an era of the thoughtless plundering of natural resources, here is a voice in favor of valuing our natural history. This is a nice story to read for Arbor day, or simply to impart environmental values any day of the week.
Susan
Another nice offering from David McPhail, a gentle story about generations passing and respect for who and what has come before around a story of the importance of saving an old tree.
Jen
Feb 14, 2013 Jen rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: pb
lovely short book. very short sentences. obvious moral. no real conflict to resolve because the reader can anticipate the ending. It won an environmental award.
Alley Denney
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's about family traditions, love, and stand your ground no matter what. Excellent book to read to an elementary class.
Genea T.
Sweet simple story.
Laura
Ok. The first half of story was better than last half. A little unrealistic to think that a child can change the course of a road .
Jennifer
Very cute. Great illustrations. Not too heavy on the environmental side but shows that nature is important.
Elsa
Apr 24, 2012 Elsa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: pb
Very nice. I don't know why, but David McPhail's books always bring a little tear to my eye. :-)
Sharon Lawler
Watercolor and ink illustrations and a simple story send the message of preserving the environment.
Rosalie
This is a must read for Arbor Day or Earth Day. When the whole community unites a tree is saved!
Bettina
Very reminiscent of The Little House by Burton. My child enjoyed the illustrations.
Elisabeth
Nice blending of family history with an environmental message.
Edward Sullivan
Warm, appealing story with an environmental message.
Mark
If only more trees like this one could be saved...
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David was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts and attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. While there, he began illustrating. He is now an award-winning author and illustrator of nearly 200 books beloved by children, parents and librarians across the United States. McPhail has garnered many prestigious awards, including a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year...more
More about David McPhail...
Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore! Mole Music Edward and the Pirates Waddles The Teddy Bear

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