Only the Trees Know
Only the Trees Know
When a child wants something to happen, they expect it immediately. One has only to think of the plaintive wails, “Are we there yet” and “When will Mommy/Daddy be home?” Over and over.
In Only the Trees Know, by Burnaby librarian Jane Whittingham, winter has gone on far too long for Little Rabbit who misses his friends who are hibernating or who have migrated. He also misses the “sunny days of spring, when he had fresh grass to eat, soft meadows to leap through and plenty of friends to play with.”
He sets out to discover when the seasons will change and receives his parents’ patient answer, “Spring will come in its own time. Be patient, Little Rabbit.” His grandmother tells him that only the trees know when.
Frustrated, Little Rabbit demands the trees answer him - pronto! He works himself into a tizzy trying to elicit a response, waving his paws, wiggling his ears, and jumping up and down until he is dizzy.
Exhausted, he curls up for a nap, and, when he wakes up, he senses something is different. The song of a bird, a bud on a branch. The trees are changing. Spring is on the way - “Soon.”
The story is pleasant and is suitable to teach patience to young children. The soft pastel-coloured illustrations by Cinyee Chiu subtly incorporate the blue, green, yellow and brown hues that blend together amidst the thick blanket of snow. They hint that there is more to the forest than only white snow, that life is waiting to show itself. On the last page, the blue skies and the green buds show that spring is indeed on the way. Little Rabbit seems to leap with joy this time, not desperation.
Only the Trees Know can form part of a collection to reinforce lessons about patience, about the seasons and about learning from elders.
Harriet Zaidman’s recent young adult novel, Second Chances won the 2022 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People. She is a children’s writer, review and freelancer living in Winnipeg. Manitoba.