Under the Dancing Tree is one of those rare picture books that caresses my heartstrings with the same tenderness of a harpist’s fingers creating a gentle glissando.
If you’re a parent or a grandparent, you may want to make this a new, favorite, read-aloud. I believe it launches on Amazon this week.
Opening with the picture of a tiny girl dancing under the willow tree in her yard, Mattis creates a variety of scenes throughout the book, depicting day-to-day life as the little girl grows up. The willow tree is included in each stage of their lives, but the story, much like the song, “Butterfly Kisses,” is all about a father’s love for his daughter.
1. The art. I love the colors, the choice of subject, the tranquil atmosphere. Obviously, I am no art critic, but I know what I like.
2. The book is done in rhyme, not easy to do well. Chip Mattis does a good job with the rhythms he created, and again, I love the serene atmosphere that results from those rhythms.
3. I can see this title being passed from generation to generation, much as what has been done with Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. Love You Forever gives us a completely different feel for everyday life within a family, but the message still matches Under the Dancing Tree–how much a parent loves his or her child.
Some readers may find the focus of Under the Dancing Tree too mild. No conflict. No problem to solve. However, conflict does exist–that ancient ache of a father knowing his little girl will grow up, and there’s nothing he can do to stop time.
Just as I read Love You Forever to my sons, and my sons read it to their little ones today, so do I expect that dads will read Under the Dancing Tree to their daughters. And may those little girls grow up, hand the book to their husbands, who will read it to their little girls.