School Library Journal
As a carpenter, Harlan Burch plants two trees for every one he cuts. “Somebody else might need a tree someday was Harlan Burch's philosophy.” The trees serve another purpose, however, when he realizes that, like the forest animals around him, he can make a home for himself in a hollow tree. The man lived “and lived and lived and lived and lived and lived” in a sycamore, growing younger, not older. He becomes a husband and father, passing away at the age of 142 and leaving his own family tree behind. A comfortable voice enhances the rich, rural narrative. Acrylics on cardboard and linen provide a textured canvas for Shelby’s storytelling, and the palette of greens, browns, and blues emphasizes the beauty of the natural environment. Intricate quilt squares, symbolic of Appalachian culture, are integrated into each spread. Loosely based on a traditional family story, this southeastern Kentucky folktale with a gentle message provides a rhythmic read-aloud.
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
This rich tale, based on an Appalachian legend, tells the story of the improvised life of Harlan Burch, a philosophical carpenter who builds everything from cradles to coffins and plants two trees for every one he cuts down. On a walk “noticing things,” he discovers an enormous sycamore tree that in his opinion would make a perfect home. So he sets up house and continues to work and live for a long time. Then a strange thing starts to happen-he starts to grow younger. He marries, has lots of children and lives in the tree until he dies at 142. Shelby’s gorgeous, rhythmic narration artfully shows, without one hint of forceful message, that living to the fullest is about living deeply and consciously. Harlan isn't rewarded with riches and fame, but rather life itself. Hazelaar’s pale, country-toned acrylics accented with quilting squares-and in the central, transformative spread, taking the form of a quilt-are the perfect folk touch for Harlan, his trees and all that living. Nicely done.
Kids Lit (blog)
Illustrations copyright 2009 © by Cor Hazelaar