My book review of 'The Promise' by Nicola Davies
This beautiful, but unusual and sophisticated, picture book draws heavily on the classic, familiar tale, 'The Man Who Planted Trees' by Jean Giorno.
Its opening is stark and shocking with a mugging in a bleak city setting. The victim, an old woman doesn't give up her bag and its contents without a fight but finally releases it to her young female assailant, with a puzzling instruction - 'to promise to plant them'.
The girl thief humours the old lady and runs off with her spoils. Initially disappointed that she hasn't gained food or money, the girl looks at the acorns inside and realises that she has been given an unusual gift, and so she vows to take her promise seriously: "I held a forest in my arms and my heart was changed."
The girl plants acorns on roundabouts, behind factories and shopping malls, at bus stops and in the cracked paving of the streets. Little by little over many years, she begins to see how her urban landscape and its downtrodden residents are transformed by the colour and life of the young trees. Cities all around the world are changed until one day a thief strikes again in a lonely alley...
This is a powerful and moving story which will appeal to adults as well as children from five years and above. It is a book to treasure and to return to again and again, providing an inspiring, touching and life-affirming tale.