Books My Mother Gave Me: The Shrinking of Treehorn (Florence Parry Hide) Review

Published September 23, 2013 by ElisaChristy

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This is a short book, designed mainly for children to read alone. The premise is exactly as the title suggests: Treehorn is shrinking and he doesn’t know why.

“‘If you want to pretend you’re shrinking, that’s all right,’ said Treehorn’s mother, ‘as long as you don’t do it at the table.'”

The adults in Treehorn’s life either remain in denial about him shrinking, or assume it is his fault somehow and tell him to stop it.  Adults not understanding children and blaming them for things they have no control over is common in books of this sort, though I don’t think I’ve ever read a book which does it quite like this one does.

“‘First it was the cake and now it’s this. Everything happens at once.'”

The book is illustrated by Edward Gorey and indeed the writing, although not by him, also carries some of his humour.  As Treehorn keeps shrinking, the adults seems to just hope it goes away, his principal at school gives him advice to stop shrinking and seems to think he has solved the problem, but of course Treehorn knows he hasn’t. The book is good at portraying how odd adults seem to children, how we ignore, what to them are entirely obvious problems that need answers, and we ignore them because we don’t know how to fix them. For a book under a 100 pages long, that’s an impressive feat.

“‘I wonder if he’s doing it on purpose. Just to be different.'”

We learn at the beginning of the book, that Treehorn regularly sends off for prizes you can get from cereal boxes, and it is one of these  – a board game – which is causing him to shrink. When he finishes the board game, he regains his normal height. The book ends with a cliffhanger – Treehorn turns green – but this time he decides not to tell anyone, because he’s sure they won’t notice unless he mentions it.

The book is easy to read for children, it portrays shrinking as both a normal and abnormal thing at the same time. The book is humourous and if you have read some of Edward Gorey’s writing, it’s a safe bet that you will enjoy Florence Parry Hide too.

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