A spectacular time-lapse portrait of humankind—and our impact on the natural world—from a Caldecott Honor–winning master of the wordless form In an alternate past—or possible future—a mighty tree stands on the banks of a winding river, bearing silent witness to the flow of time and change. A family farms the fertile valley. Soon, a village sprouts, and not long after, a town. Residents learn to harness the water, the wind, and the animals in order to survive and thrive. The growing population becomes ever more industrious and clever, bending nature itself to their will and their ambition: redirecting rivers, harvesting lumber, reshaping the land, even extending daylight itself. . . . The Tree and the River is an epic time-lapse reimagining of human civilization from a master of the wordless form, and a thought-provoking meditation on the relationship between two mighty forces: nature and humankind.
In this spectacular wordless tale that takes a long view of time's passing, Becker (Journey) spotlights a single tree's life cycle against a changing backdrop of human conflicts, technological change, and natural events. On the bank of a winding river where the light is clear and brilliant, a young tree grows, and diminutive figures raise a structure nearby. A pastoral existence soon gives way to a fortified building on the riverbank, and humans clothed in red and blue seem to prepare for war. A page turn reveals the results: the castle is destroyed, the tree remains, and a city grows up amid the ruins. Technology arrives, with railways and steampunk-style airships; then an industrial landscape, in which gloom pervades the atmosphere; and a futuristic, artificially illuminated night. The tree, its great limbs spreading, is languishing. Another page turn suggests cataclysm as the river runs high and the tree is almost submerged. But an acorn drops—and life persists, starting the cycle anew. In a sweeping, carefully detailed work that's visually reminiscent of Anno's Journey, Becker distills a lengthy timeline into bite-size rises and falls whose beats offer hope and solace for the long term. Ages 5–9.