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Toby and the Secrets of the Tree Hardcover – August 10, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Gr 5-8–After the cliff-hanger ending of Toby Alone (Candlewick, 2009), the miniature protagonist returns to try to locate his kidnapped parents and prevent the destruction of the Tree that houses settlements of tiny humans. His childhood friend Leo Blue has become a power broker and rules from the Nest on high, while Joe Mitch maintains control of the Low Branches, capturing and enslaving Grass people to dig out the Crater and increase his fortune. Between Leo's blind quest for supremacy and Joe Mitch's exploitation of its resources, the Tree is rapidly declining. Toby must navigate carefully to avoid the dangers they present. Moreover, Leo is determined to win Elisha Lee, and, when he realizes that Toby holds her heart, his intent to destroy his former friend becomes murderous. De Fombelle sprinkles social commentary liberally throughout the plot's twists and turns, and, while it will go over the heads of some readers, others will appreciate the pulls between big business and the environment and the distrust between the Grass and Tree people. Place's pen-and-ink illustrations are scattered generously throughout and enhance the overall quirkiness. Though the forvolume can stand alone, youngsters unfamiliar with the first installment may find it difficult to keep track of the large cast of characters and where their loyalties lie. This interesting piece of eco-fantasy provides a satisfying conclusion for those who enjoyed the first book.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VAα(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
About the Author
Timothée de Fombelle is a much-admired French playwright. His first novel, Toby Alone, has been translated in twenty-two languages and has won numerous prizes.
François Place has illustrated many books and is also a renowned author in his native France.
Sarah Ardizzone won the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation for Toby Alone. She lives in London.
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Once there, Toby slowly began to rebuild his strength, stamina and heart. He made friends, learned more about the world, and rekindled the desire to fight against the injustice Leo Blue was inflicting upon the Tree. Toby vowed never to stop until the Tree, his home, was reclaimed and healed. Now, more than ever, Toby has reason to return.
Elisha is currently being held in one of the eggs in the nest in the North branches. Although not able to fully get Elisha under his control, Leo Blue is nevertheless moving forward with a forced marriage. Elisha's freedom is slowly disappearing, and Toby is nowhere to be found. His parents have been struggling under harsh working conditions in the forced labor camp that is slowly digging a large, destructive crater in the middle of the tree, and they're beginning to lose hope that their son is even alive. In addition to Sim and Maya, numerous Grass People have been captured and forced into manual labor as well. Treated as second-class citizens, the Grass People are looking for a savior.
Never one to give up easily, Toby has a plan. One advantage he has is that no one recognizes him anymore. He used to be small and wiry but has since stretched out and grown into a young man. The other advantage is that he can instantly make friends and gain the trust of those around him. So he starts small, first joining the woodcutters as they beat back the lichen and learning of secret fugitives who hope to start a rebellion. He revisits old stomping grounds that reveal more secrets about the safety and whereabouts of the people he loves. Finally, he learns about a hidden secret from his past that has more control over him than he realized. But are these secrets enough to save the Tree?
The beauty of TOBY AND THE SECRETS OF THE TREE is found in the characters and their relationships to each other and the Tree. It slowly starts dawning on all of the characters that they are interconnected, and how they treat each other ultimately influences how they treat their home, the Tree. Much could be said for how humanity treats each other and our home, Earth. This allegorical tale is an optimistic one, though, and the story will ultimately pull at your heartstrings. Fans who have been waiting for a satisfying conclusion will not be disappointed.
---- Reviewed by Benjamin Boche
Meanwhile, Joe Mitch, the "Friendly Neighbor" with an obsession for digging holes, continues his destructive ways. Mitch forces his captives, including Toby's parents, the Scholars, and the Grass People, to dig a crater that threatens the well-being of the tree.
While time is running out for all, Sim Lolness continues to withhold the secret of Balina as Toby struggles to stop both Leo's relentless quest to conquer the Grass People and Joe Mitch's quest to destroy the tree. Toby bravely endures betrayal and hatred in his pursuit to find friendship and love. Along the way he makes new friends and meets some old ones in his journey to free his loved ones and save the oak tree he calls home before all is lost.
In this miniature world where the people are just 1.5 mm tall, life is all too fragile and uncertain. de Fombelle has created a tiny civilization whose survival depends on the well-being of a single oak tree. The tree and the destruction that plagues it mirror the Earth's woes. Similarly, prejudice exists in this mini world where two races struggle to survive with the Tree People viewing themselves as superior to the Grass People. Thus, the Toby Lolness series offers a unique example of sociology and ecology.
The Bottom Line: As a sequel, Toby and the Secrets of the Tree seamlessly continues the suspense of the first book. Since this book begins in the middle of Toby's adventure, be sure to check out "Toby Alone" first. Like the first novel, "Toby and the Secrets of the Tree", is told in a style that uses flashback to fill in the backstory. Both novels are fast-paced and action-packed. de Fombelle's beautiful descriptions of the tree awaken and appreciation for nature. Additionally, the pen and ink illustrations by Francois Place enhance the story.
Due to the graphic violence depicted in parts of the story, Toby and the Secrets of the Tree is appropriate for kids and teens ages 12 and up. This imaginative adventure is highly recommended.
(This review was originally written for LibraryThing. I received a free Advance Reading Copy through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program in exchange for a review.)