Matthew S. Field,
Father Like a Tree
(Matting Leah, 2005)

Father Like a Tree is a wonderfully told, beautifully illustrated book that grew from the most innocent of origins: a "tell me a story, Daddy" moment. It's a simple story that young children will understand and invariably want to hear more than once, but it also communicates its own special message to parents who will one day watch their own little ones spread their wings and leave to build a nest of their own elsewhere.

Some might say this book is really about the bird that builds her nest, raises her baby birds and sees them off into the world (i.e., the mother), but I really like the "father like a tree" analogy. The bird lays the eggs, sees to the babies' needs and teaches them how to survive on their own, but all the while the tree is there to shelter and sustain the little family, a less visible but very active participant in the whole child-rearing process. When the youngsters leave the nest, the tree misses them just as much as the mother bird does, and both stand ready to welcome them back when and if they return to visit.

I'm no art expert, but I know what I like, and I really like Tom Hedderich's illustrations; they have a wonderfully natural, vibrant look and feel; in a way, just looking at them instills a sense of peace in the viewer. I'm sure that children will enjoy examining them, especially with all the little woodland critters worked into the background of many of them.

Books like this encourage parent-child interaction and help instill a sense of the joy of reading in the little tykes. You won't even have to pretend to be interested in what you are reading to your child because Matthew S. Field's story speaks to parents as much as it does to children (unlike many a children's book out there). Parents who share books like this with their young children will not be among those asking "why can't Johnny read?" a few years later.

by Daniel Jolley
4 February 2006

Buy it from