Dr Elsa Lee reviews What the Oak Tree Sees by AK Scott & RM Brink 

This beautiful, whimsical and nostalgic picture book answers a question my children and I often ask of an oak tree in the village that we call home. This tree has been a place of refuge for us as a family since we arrived here six years ago, and I know that this is true for so many other humans and others who live near and in it. So when I saw this recently published picture book I jumped at the chance to review it. 

The first thing that struck me is how the book feels. It has a silky smooth cover that invites stroking, and its muted colour pallet of greens, purple, white and black is equally enticing. The book is written in rhyme, and opens with a map reminiscent of the map in AA Milne’s timeless stories. But this map is of Hiddel Brock Wood, which is a real place that you can discover about here: hiddelbrock.co.uk/about (as an aside, brock is a Celtic word for badger; and for me the word conjures up Beatrix Potter’s badger, with his nasty smell and unpleasant habits!).

This book is an educational adventure that takes you through the diurnal experience of the oak tree in midsummer, teaching you the habits of British wildlife, managing to incorporate paw prints for each animal that is described for the keen young tracker to use as a key for identification. 

The presence of a worn-out tree swing on every page heralds the arrival of people too, who are depicted as part of the woods – creatures, too – and the link to tracking is consolidated through the description of their activities under the oak tree.

The book closes with some activities for children to do, which adds to its appeal for parents and teachers alike.

Whilst there is no fictional tale here, the text is rich with cultural references, new accurate terminology, and points to initiate discussion; and the drawings are both beautiful and scientific in their observations of the habits and movements of the wildlife they depict. My personal favourite is the fox leaping to pounce, although I also loved looking for the red squirrel in different poses around the tree. I recommend this to any teacher or parent wanting to enrich their young children’s knowledge of the wildlife of Britain and Ireland. 

Scott, A.K. and Brink, R.M. (2021). What the oak tree sees. Northumberland: Hiddel Brock Wood. ISBN: 978-1-8383001-0-4. hiddelbrock.co.uk/books

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