From Publishers Weekly
The white pines of colonial New England were truly "giants living on this land," as first-time author Appelbaum imaginatively demonstrates. The trees, she notes, "stood taller than an apartment house twenty-five stories high, taller than the tallest building ever built in New Hampshire or Maine." Her story uses a wealth of such well-presented facts to describe how, in King George's day, these trees were laboriously cut, hoisted onto huge axles, hauled by teams of oxen to the nearest river and eventually transported to England, where they became the giant masts of British warships. These trees have all been felled, but as Appelbaum optimistically concludes, "giants are growing now." The scratchboard illustrations give this text real drama. McCurdy ( The Beasts of Bethlehem ) recreates the massiveness of his subject with heavily black trees that tower past the edges of the suitably tall (12-inch) pages or topple from one corner of a spread to another, dwarfing the men who harvest them. These powerful images make a potentially esoteric subject concrete and approachable. Ages 7-up.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 2-4. Much more than a simple ecology lesson, this picture book dramatizes both the power of nature and the drive of human technology. Giant white pine trees once grew in the New England woods for thousands of years; today there are none. In the eighteenth century, the British needed the trees for their great warships, ships that required masts 40 inches wide at the base, 120 feet tall, and absolutely straight. The facts are astonishing: Forests had to be cleared; roads had to be cut straight because a mast tree couldn't bend around a corner; special mast ships carried the great logs to England. The prose is restrained and lyrical, precise about the mechanism by which the trees were marked, cut down, and hauled to the sea, and romantic about the giants that lived on this land. McCurdy's dramatic black-and-white scratchboard drawings, many spread across two pages, capture the sweep and detail of the landscape, the anguish of the tree felling, and the huge, lumbering procession of the oxen straining at their chains to drag each heavy trunk to the sea. There's no hectoring about the environment, but the sense of grief is manifest; the trees are gone. And then the quiet surprise of the ending: "Step into the woods. . . . Giants are growing." Hazel Rochman