Arlo just wants to enjoy his book, but when he accidentally drops it on the mayor's head, it starts a big change. The mayor gathers all the books and rips them up, because they stir up ideas. The difference is noticed all over town; restaurants have no cookbooks for delicious recipes, teachers have no texts to use at school, everyone is sad. But a single page had floated away during the destruction and "When it landed, the muddy earth swallowed it letter by letter." As Arlo begins to write his own stories, that buried page sends up a shoot that grows and grows until it is tree with branches full of books. Once the townspeople rediscover the joy of books, the town comes back to life. Even the mayor learns the importance of books and how they act as seeds to make things better.
The artwork is just as whimsical as the idea of book pages floating through the air like dandelion seeds. Oil paints and collage work together to create scenes of the rolypoly mayor in striped pants and coat (resembling a walking beach ball) and Arlo in his jaunty beret. The pages the mayor rips up are covered in text from many different languages, and the same sort of words appear on the leaves of the book tree as they unfurl. Without explicitly saying anything, those words reveal the universal appeal of stories and books.
The action of Arlo writing his own stories when other books were out of reach is a great lesson for young readers. Even when books have been destroyed, he finds a way to bring them back for himself and the rest of the town. A discussion of comparing and contrasting the town when the books are gone and the way it looks as the book tree brings hope back would have readers searching the illustrations for details to point out. Looking for favorite phrases would also be a great activity. My favorite is probably, "Arlo opened his book and breathed in." Book lovers everywhere will recognize that habit, inhaling the scent of pages and ink and possibility.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.