December 13, 2011

Dear Baobab

by Cheryl Foggo
Illustrated by Qin Leng
Second Story Press
24 pp.
Ages 5-8

After the death of his parents, seven-year-old Maiko is transplanted from his home in Africa to live with his Uncle Peter and Aunt Ajia in a country like Canada, where there are spruce trees, Halloween, snow, and Leonard, a boy who laughs at Maiko's ears.  Missing the massive baobab tree in his birth village, Maiko connects with a small spruce tree at his new home, sharing his secrets and loneliness with the little evergreen. But the spruce is growing too close to the house's foundation and its fate must be decided upon.

For Maiko, his "Hello tree, same age as me" spruce is his confidant and empath, as they both experience a tenuous future, clashing with their environments. Fortunately, Maiko's aunt, uncle and others show the compassion and wisdom necessary to help the little ones, be they arboreal or human, flourish.

Calgarian Cheryl Foggo's impressive writing credentials foretold the jewel of Dear Baobab, her first children's picture book, a sympathetic but hopeful portrayal of finding a way to fit it.  Qin Leng's ink and paint illustrations (also in Blue Spruce nominated A Flock of Shoes, Sarah Tsiang, Annick Press, 2010) have a freshness that recreate the Africa of Maiko's memories and his expansive and overwhelming new surroundings of his new country.

A perfect gift for a child new to Canada, sure to elicit hope for their new circumstances.

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