The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan

Read: 4 November, 2017

At it’s most basic, the plot is about a writer who has hermitted herself to get away from a recent tragedy. It’s a common story, but Kiernan handles it well.

I didn’t find the book to be particularly scary or haunted, unfortunately. I found that The Woman In Black got me quite a bit harder with the atmosphere (though Sarah and Constance’s picnic came close), and The Haunting of Hill House did a better job of getting under my skin. But I found The Red Tree compelling from start to finish. Even though very little happens, and we spend most of our time ruminating with the main character, I still had trouble putting the book down until I’d finished.

…and even after. The ending is somewhat abrupt. I was expecting, and would have liked, a follow up from the ‘editor’ who wrote the preface. Just something to give us the reality anchoring – what does the evidence tell us about Sarah’s time in that house, and how does it differ (or not) from her own account of it? Or maybe that would have been spelling things out too much. I did re-read the preface after I had finished the book, though, and there were some interesting details in the wording, but without the answers I had been hoping to find.

But other than my vague dissatisfaction with the ending (which, in addition to being very abrupt, also suffered from predictability), I enjoyed the book on the whole. I would have liked something a little more gut-grippingly scary as my Halloween read, but I’m not disappointed to have picked The Red Tree.

Oh, and the cover design really is very unfortunate.

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers (illustrated by Marla Frazee)

I quite like this book, though my kid is less than impressed. I think it may just be a quirk of his that he’s not that interested in looking at pictures of babies. I know that some of his friends are just absolutely entranced.

The text is fine, nothing special. Each page begins with “Every day, everywhere, babies are…” and names something that babies might experience, like being fed, being carried, being loved, being kissed, etc. Then there are examples of many different ways that this might happen. For example, babies might be fed by bottle, by breast, or by spoon.

Where this book really shines is in the illustrations. I absolutely loved how diverse they are, showing a baby with two (exhausted) mothers, or a crowd shot that includes two men walking hand in hand, or a white mother with two babies of colour, etc.

In both the text and the pictures, this book strongly promotes the idea that different is not scary or bad, and provides ample opportunities for discussions. As I parent, I could easily take up a whole story time just talking about one page.

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