Score: 92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
This children's book was compiled by McCullough from a story he made as a child decades ago. It features some nice art by Maryanne Smith, a powerful message for every single human being on Earth, and a touching allegorical story for the ages and for all ages. It seems to have been created for a preschool or pre-K audience, but we believe it might actually fit more with a 1st or 2nd grade audience as it discusses heavy topics like grief, loss, and even a bit of existentialism loaded in there with a great deal of symbolism and didacticism.
In other words, in can be a lot to take in for a young audience. However, with some discussion, a skilled teacher can guide their young students toward making some sense of it. Children are not dumb, just inexperienced. And many children experience some degree of sadness or missing someone such as when they are forced to part with a parent or older sibling at the beginning of a school day. Some of them may have already experienced the death of someone like a parent, a grandparent, or even a stillborn or premature brother or sister. It's not entirely a foreign concept to a young audience, it's just a lot to swallow and digest at once. Another thing that holds back this book slightly is that while Folie, the tree, is illustrated in a way that would make Bob Ross proud, many of the accompanying illustrations are not of that same spectacular quality. They are often missing color and appear more like line art. The book is also quite wordy for a preschool/pre-K book, verging on straight prose for the most part, albeit with a more brief sentence and paragraph structure.
The book stars a lovable tree named Folie (probably short for “foliage”) who lives in California with her many creature friends, namely caterpillars, birds, and a puddle named Puddle. Puddle is the most significant of these and serves as the major supporting character throughout the story. Folie and Puddle share a mutual, symbiotic relationship. Puddle comes to represent an important person in the reader's life, whether that be a friend, a parent, or grandparent. Like in real life, you can't always be with the people you love. Sometimes you or they need to leave, if even temporarily. It can be very difficult to see your son or daughter off to college, or to lose a friend or family member to a terminal illness—an event which profoundly inspired the author to create this amazing book (as he had lost his mother to cancer and his cousin earlier in life). The Puddle evaporates, leaving the tree to ponder if she'll ever see her loved one again, but the Puddle reappears in another form, a cloud, to continue to be a part of Folie's life.
This book is powerful and beautiful in its own way. Gosh, we sure have had a lot of powerful and beautiful books lately, many of which deal with loss and coping with lost. Thematically, this isn't unique, but it is very unique in its presentation. It has a special sort of appeal for children and adults alike.
Check it out!