My husband Jason and I are dog lovers. We adore dogs in all shapes, sizes and breeds, but our hearts were especially captured by and we have shared our home for over two decades with devastatingly charming, handsome, rambunctious Airedale terriers.We’re as passionate about books as we are about our companion beasts. What better way to combine the two then, than by building a subset of our library to focus on Airedales? Thanks to Jason’s particular eye for and terrier-like tenacity for researching and seeking out rare, obscure and offbeat books, we’ve amassed and are constantly on the lookout for books that feature, depict and even just mention Airedales in passing, in pictures and print. (1) One day, we aim to publish an annotated bibliography of what we’ve gathered.
Through that search for all things both bookish and Airedalian, The Money Tree, by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small recently came our way … and I am besotted.
The Money Tree tells its story through deceptively simple, almost circumspect text and rich, endlessly evocative illustrations. Miss McGillicuddy shares a pastoral life on a lush piece of land with a warmly appointed farmhouse with three dogs (one of which, of course, is an Airedale), a cat, some birds (including a parrot) and farm animals, including a horse and some goats. Miss McGillicuddy is quietly self reliant, planting and harvesting and caring for her animals, and finding time to quilt, read, fly a kite and make a Maypole for the neighbourhood children. Over the course of a year, she discovers a strange tree growing on her property, watches as it yields a puzzling but compelling bounty, shares that bounty with her community, and then wisely brings the bounty to an end, clearly with much thought and no alarm or rancour.
David Small’s illustrations are rich in colour and detail, and offer character and storytelling details that deepen Sarah Stewart’s understated, poetic text. How do we know that over the seasons, the enigmatic Miss McGillicuddy has made her decisions with such benevolence, tempered with such prudent moderation? Small’s particular strength has been to focus on this independent woman’s face, throwing beams of the subtly changing seasonal light on her musing, absorbed and absorbing expressions.
The Money Tree movingly captures the enduring beauty and reassurances of and in the changes of the seasons. The book simultaneously pays tribute to personal resilience and communal generosity.
This is a sweet and gentle tale for young children. There is also much to entrance and, evinced in Miss McGillicuddy’s Mona Lisa smile on the last page, to ever so softly provoke adult readers, too.
1. Here are some of our Airedale books that I’ve previously mentioned on this blog:
- Pete, by Tom Robinson
- Sink Trap (A Georgiana Neverall Mystery), by Christy Evans
- Wake Up Mr B! by Penny Dale
- Useless Dog, by Billy C. Clark
The Money Tree by Sarah Stewart, from the Experiencing Nature blog