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The Man Who Lived in a Hollow Tree    by Anne Shelby & Cor Hazelaar order for
Man Who Lived in a Hollow Tree
by Anne Shelby
Order:  USA  Can
Atheneum, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Deb Kincaid

Anne Shelby, author of The Man Who Lived in a Hollow Tree, grew up hearing folk tales in southeastern Kentucky, where her family calls home. In her newest book, Shelby retells the story of Harlan Burch, who lived in the mountains a long time ago when the trees 'were a lot bigger than they are now.'

Old Harlan Burch was a carpenter who could build anything. One day when he was out getting more wood, he found a giant sycamore tree big enough to live in - so he moved in. He grew very old. Then, he began to grow young again! And that led to ... well, all sorts of things.

I love books that capture the past - and hold onto it. Shelby's book does it, by colloquialisms, by cultural references, by slowing down the pace, and by infusing the pages with reverence and respect. Some of this will no doubt be lost on the children to whom this book is directed, but the loved ones who read to them will get it, and perhaps be able to relay what they can't help but feel in the very reading itself.

The beautiful illustrations by Cor Hazelaar paint the true essence of Shelby's narrative, with lush colors, quilt-block motifs, lunar and stellar inferences, and subtle use of metaphor. The pictures are painted folk-style as well, a la Gramma Moses. More than a book, The Man Who Lived in a Hollow Tree is an homage to a time and people.

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