I’m moving The Shed (my workplace at home) as The Boys are going to have their very own bedrooms for the first time, and in the process I’m uncovering all kinds of long hidden gems, like this wonderful 1979 children’s book ‘The Oak’.
‘The Oak’ is a beautiful illustrated and beautifully simple story. It’s a reflection on the life of an oak and the changes that it has seen.
From the storm that scattered the Armada and caused an acorn to fall, through the Plague and May Day to Wesley’s preaching and the industrial revolution. ‘The Oak’ is a miniature of classic English history over 400 years.
Each page captures historical milestones in beautifully realised ink-pen drawings that burst with energy, historical detail and incidental animation.
Geoffrey Patterson was born and brought up in Wimbledon and left school to work for the interior designer, John Siddeley. He moved on to the BBC where he spent 10 years working as set designer before settling in Suffolk as a free-lance illustrator.
Though he created numerous other children’s book, to me ‘The Oak’ has stood the test of time, not only does it offer a glimpse of England over 400 years, but it ends delightfully optimistically…
with the town marking the life of it’s ancient oak by planting a new oak sapling… rebirth.
“As he patted the earth firmly on the roots he said, ‘What changes, I wonder, will this new tree see on the next four hundred years.’
Re-finding and re-reading this seemingly simple book has been a delight. It’s provoked reflections on time, timelessness, trees, and the nature of change. In fact ‘The Oak’ prompted more thinking that other outwardly more obviously profound ‘adult’ books. But then, isn’t that a definition of any truly successful children’s book?