I’ve always loved nonfiction. The how and why of things—any things—has always fascinated me. At the same time, I love a good story. Why, I’ve thought, do the two have to mutually exclusive. I thought it could be done, the combination of a great storybook and genuine nonfiction, but I just hadn’t seen it. I knew a really clever author/illustrator should be able to carry it off though. Then I saw Redwoods. It was just as I had imagined a story within a story yet something more. So much more.
Authors like Jim Murphy, Russell Freedman, Sally Walker and others have honed the craft of narrative nonfiction to a fine edge. Jason Chin, however, has taken another step. He’s drawn an engaging story and linked it to a rock solid nonfiction text. Standing alone, either story or text would be more than passable. The illustrations, featuring a young boy who bears a striking likeness to my nephew, would make a good wordless book in the vein of Ann Jonas’s The Trek. The text on the other hand, is a clear and interesting explanation of the history and “life story” of California’s coastal redwoods and the importance of their place in their area’s eco systems.
In an author’s note at the end of the book, Chin explains that his research and a trip to California “left (him) with an affinity for the redwoods that (he) hadn’t thought possible.” Having poured over his book numerous times and perusing my photos of the redwoods in Yellowstone, I understand exactly where he’s coming from.
To top it off, the surprise at the end of the story will have readers anxiously awaiting more from Mr. Chin. The boy has left the wondrous Redwoods book on a bench and a girl has picked it up; what will happen now? Has Chin placed clues within the illustrations about his next book? There’s so much to see in the artwork that I don’t know for sure, but I think perhaps he may have. I hope we don’t have to wait too long to find out.
Possibly even more amazing than a brilliant concept carried out flawlessly is the fact that this is author/illustrator Jason Chin’s first book. We can only hope that this debut book is merely the beginning of a long and illustrious career.
Posted by: Eileen