9.19.2008

The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heide, drawings by Edward Gorey 64 pp RL 3


I am a fan of Edward Gorey's and I remember when the Treehorn Trilogy was reissued in 2006, but didn't rush out to buy it since it was shelved in the Cartoonist/Humorist section of the bookstore and not the children's section. Sadly, it went out of print in the blink of an eye, which is too bad since the trilogy (which I bought used recently) is printed on gorgeous, thick paper, the quality of the illustrations is superb and, of course, it is small - a bit bigger and a bit thinner than a brick! I decided to hunt down the book and review it when it kept popping up on websites of kid's book authors I like and when I discovered that the first book, The Shrinking of Treehorn, is available in paperback.

Originally published in 1971, the adults in this book act and look the era. The jacket flap of the trilogy describes Treehorn as a clever but repeatedly ignored boy. While this might sound horrible, any of you who were kids in the 70s might remember that is was also a pretty good set up, being ignored by parents who had adult lives of their own. I know I got to do a lot of stuff I would never let my kids do today... Some of you may find this scenario disturbing, some may find if humorous, but what really matters is what kids think of it, and I think kids will enjoy it.

The Shrinking of Treehorn is at it's heart, a really simple story. Treehorn wakes up, realizes he is shrinking and gets no support and almost no concern from the adults in his life, from his parents to his teachers to the principle. By accident, Treehorn discovers that one of the many cereal-box giveaways that he loves to send off for is the reason for his diminishing size and he sets things back in order. His interactions with adults, their disinterestedness and the way they talk in circles, will be funny for older children. I'd say that this book reminds me most of Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, both for they way the illustrations make it evident when it was written and the way that the parents interact with the children. While Alexander's parents are a little bit more involved than Treehorn's, it still reminds me a bit of my own childhood.

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