Twigs are stick creatures that live in trees deep in the forest. They gather nuts, berries, blossoms, and other things that grow for their food and homes. Leaf is a young Twig who lives peacefully with his family in an old seeder tree, but when a massive flood suddenly changes the landscape of the forest, he has to venture off on his own to find another Twig named Rustle and ask the chompers (beavers) to build a new dam around the flood. However, the journey is more dangerous than he anticipates. Rattlesnakes, foxes, owls, and other creatures threaten Leaf and his friends at every turn. But if he wants to save his home and his family, Leaf has to be brave.
Leaf and the Rushing Waters is the first book in Jo Marshall’s Twig Stories, a series of environmentally themed fantasy/adventure books for children. The story is rich with natural imagery and feels more like a fairy tale than a story strictly about nature. The slang, although a little odd to get used to at first, adds character and an innocent charm that makes it easier to picture forest life the way the Twigs see it.
As an adult reader, I did feel that the use of multiple perspectives took away from some of the suspense and I definitely noticed a bit of a formulaic pattern, but I honestly think it works great for children. I often found myself thinking that if I were of the target age group, I would be 110% engrossed. Of course, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it as a 21-year-old. While the more serious issues of climate change and environmental preservation are certainly obvious to us older readers, they’re not presented in an elitist, self-righteous way or in any manner that could be perceived as “shoving it down your throat.” I’m liberal about basically everything, but I’d be hard pressed to imagine that anyone would somehow be offended by the role of climate change in the book. That, I think, is one of the story’s greatest strengths. It weaves the message naturally into the narrative and is also about much more than environmental preservation. Leaf strikes me as a great central character for children to look up to. He’s just gained some new responsibilities and even though he acts brave, he openly admits when he’s afraid. Feather, Rustle, and the beaver family are also good side-characters.
Overall, Leaf and the Rushing Waters is a nice introduction to a series that is just as fun as its message is strong. To find out more about Twig Stories and Jo Marshall, visit http://www.twigstories.com.