Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Tune Is In The Tree by Maud Hart Lovelace

177 pages
Published in 1950 by
Thomas Y. Crowell Company
New York, NY

The "tune is in the tree,"
The sceptic showeth
"No, sir! In thee!"

~ Emily Dickinson

Most readers who recognize the name Maud Hart Lovelace know it for her stories of Betsy, Tacy, and Tib. But in addition to the ten books in the Betsy-Tacy series, Maud Hart Lovelace also wrote three Deep Valley books, a countless number of short-stories and 11 other novels (ranging from children's stories to novels for adults).

The Tune Is In The Tree is one of these lesser-known eleven novels. Published the same year as Emily of Deep Valley, The Tune Is In The Tree is a children's fantasy story. It tells the story of a little girl named Annie Jo who spends the early months of one summer living with the birds while she waits for her father and mother's return.

The attentive reader will be rewarded by recognizing this story plot as one Betsy Ray decides to write in the final Betsy-Tacy book, Betsy's Wedding: "I think I'll write a story about a little girl going to live with the birds." While it's left to the reader to know if Betsy ever writes the story, Maud Hart Lovelace did in 1930, though it wasn't published for another two decades.

The Plot:
It all begins one evening when Mr. R. B. Robin discovers Annie Jo in the garden outside her cottage crying. Mr. R. B. Robin soon learns that Annie Jo is alone and uncertain of her parent's return. Her father, who earns his living as a pilot, has gone missing and her mother has left to find him. A neighbor was expected to come and take care of Annie Jo during her parents' absence, but a sprained ankle has kept the neighbor at home and now Annie Jo is alone. However with the special assistance of Miss Ruby, a hummingbird and a little magic straight out of a fairy-tale, Annie Jo is shrunk and given a pair of wings which permit her to go and live with Mr. R. B. Robin and his family and friends.

My thoughts:
The Tune Is In The Tree is a charming children's story that weaves subtle lessons in ornithology and nature with a fairy-tale perfect for any bedtime reading. The reader cannot help but cheer for Annie Jo as she learns to fly, or feel badly for the birds as they must face the "perfidious Mrs. Cowbird", and of course readers will wait with anticipation for the Oriel's Midsummer ball. The story's sweetness is only increased by the inclusion of black-and-white illustrations by Eloise Wilkins.

I first became familiar with the works of Eloise Wilkins as a child as she illustrated over 100 children's books, including several Golden Books. Her beautifully detailed and realistic drawings and paintings always seem to capture the essence of the story. And although the pictures within The Tune is in the Tree are all black-and-white they are just as delightful to the eye as any of her other works.

But then there's the bad news. As is the risk that must be run when reading an author long gone there is almost always a book or two that is out of print and difficult to locate. The Tune Is In The Tree is one such book. As far as I can tell it has been out of print for over fifty years and the only copies currently available range from $50-$250 a copy. And the value only increases as sellers realize the value of a Maud Hart Lovelace/Eloise Wilkins book. (Big sigh.) What a shame because this book is a treasure. But thanks to Inter Library Loan I was able to borrow a first edition copy to read. I can only hope the library will hang onto it long enough that I will be able to borrow it again in a couple years when my daughter will be old enough to enjoy it for herself.

In Summary
The Tune Is In The Tree is a delightful story for any young child, but especially those who have a love for fairies, animals, and make-believe. If you are so lucky as to have a library (or ILL) that possess a copy I highly recommend that you add it to your list to borrow and read.

As for me... I'll keep looking and wishing and hoping that one day it can be added to my own personal library. Who knows, maybe one day a publisher will reprint this work of art just as HarperCollins Publishers did with the Betsy-Tacy and Deep Valley books.


Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard of this one. It sounds charming.

Carrie said...

Oh, this one sounds really cute! It's so fun to find old titles such as these! I'll look for a copy myself - now that I know to do so!

Annette W. said...

This sounds so good!! Thanks for sharing...and please do, keep sharing!

Charlotte said...

I hadn't heard of this one either! Thanks for sharing it.

Nancy said...

I'm another who hasn't heard of this one, but it does sound wonderful.

Nancy @