by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin - Walker Books, 2014
ages 4 to grownup / coffee table, emotional resilience, read-it-before-you-need-it, s.o.s.e.
It is not always in our most shining moments that our hearts are changed – sometimes it is in moments of despair or desperation.
This is the story of a young girl and the way her heart is changed. Her environment is shaping her, and she comes to match that environment: "mean and hard and ugly." And she does ugly things.
Until, one night, she tries to steal from an old woman.
I love the way the old woman is described: she fought with "the strength of heroes" and indeed she is a hero.
The old woman struggles to keep the bag that she's carrying, but the young girl fights and at last the old woman says,
“If you promise to plant them I will let go.”
Thinking she has triumphed, the young girl agrees but is surprised to find acorns in the bag. And that’s when she understands. Her heart is changed as she begins to keep her promise. She: "pushed aside the mean and hard and ugly and I planted, planted, planted."
As often happens when hearts are changed, nothing changes at first. But slowly, green shoots show and trees begin to grow. People begin to appreciate the trees; other hearts are changed and others begin to plant too.
The young girl carries on her work of planting in other "sad and sorry" cities around the world. Soon, the world is a better place for the changed heart of a young girl - and the courage of an old woman who knew what could be.
This is a beautiful and lyrical testament to the power of goodness, of a changed heart, of a determination to do good, and of a willingness to fight till the right moment comes to teach. The words sound wonderful and they roll together in an easy way. Words like:
"I held a forest in my arms and my heart was changed."
"Green spread through the city like a song breathing to the sky, drawing down rain like a blessing."
All the illustrations are stunning and perfect! There’s harshness to the times when things are ugly, but there’s a softness too, containing its own promise. And as the world begins to beautify, the pages become full of life and vibrancy.
The various cities around the world show their unique character and the creeping of beauty into what had been an ugly place.
This beautiful book is a thought-provoking testament to:
The impact one person can have on the world
The importance of courage
The value of change
The blessing of access to the natural world
The power of community
The wonder of diversity
The wisdom that comes with age (sometimes)
The energy of youth (sometimes)
The brilliance of a connected community
The amazing and all-encompassing value of a heart changed for good.