Up in the Tree – Margaret Atwood

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point.

I really enjoyed this book, even though I got the distinct impression Atwood was channelling Dr Seuss a little bit.

There is no dialogue at all, and only two human characters. They’re definitely white, though they are also remarkably gender neutral for a kids’ book. Most kids’ books are very clear on the boy/girl thing, but these children who live in this tree really could be either (or neither) which is kind of neat.

There’s not a lot of ideology to sink your teeth into in this. It’s a fairly silly little tale about two kids living in a tree that has surprisingly good facilities. (One of their laments is that they’ve run out of hot water – the tree has a tap. Running water straight from a tree. You don’t see that every day.) Their ladder gets stolen, and they get stuck, but they are rescued by a friend (a bird) and then they build a ladder onto the tree trunk so it won’t happen again and they can live happily in their tree again.

I mean, I dig the whole initiative/problem-solving aspect of that part – your ladder gets stolen, so you come up with a ladder that can’t be stolen. But apart from that there’s not a lot to say. It’s whimsical, and the rhymes are good (not as common an occurrence in kiddielit as you’d expect). The illustrations are simple and engaging. Atwood even has an introduction at the beginning where she explains why the pictures only have two colours (because of when it was printed and the expense involved at the time of printing more).

It’s cute. Worth having in a home library, I’d say, but really the most seriously remarkable thing about it is that it’s a Margaret Atwood, I suppose. I’ve never been that much of a fan of her adult writing, but this was lovely.

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