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Imagine if your best friend was an ancient oak tree

Bertolt by Jacques Goldstyn

In life, you don't need a lot of friends. You only need one good friend who is by your side, day after day, through thick and thin. For one little boy, that best friend is Bertolt. 

But Bertolt, isn't like any other best friend. See, Bertolt is an ancient oak tree. 

And this little boy loves Bertolt. He spends a lot of time hanging out with this 500-year-old oak tree (he estimates that's Bertolt's age based on his scientific calculation of another tree that was cut down beside it.) 

Springtime is especially beautiful, when he can hang out in the coolest hangout ever, spying on the neighbourhood below. Bertolt's leaves create the best privacy for the boy. Nothing gets past this little boy. Not the lawyer's daughter kissing Kevin, or the Tucker twins stealing bottle from the grocer and selling them back to him. Nope, there is so many interesting things to see and do when you hang out on the high branches of Bertolt. 

Then winter arrives, and the boy must say goodbye to his best friend. But he's optimistic and unbothered. He is after all an independent boy who is very imaginative and finds things to do on his own. 

Once the final frost melts, the boy sets off to say hello to his favourite pal, but realizes that there are no leaves on Bertolt. Concluding that Bertolt must have died, he wants to honour his best friend. He knows what to do when a cat or a bird dies. But what do you do when an old oak tree just stand there like a huge, boney creature that looks like it's sleeping or playing a trick? What should he do for Bertolt? 

The solution is both charming and imaginative, an homage to the book as a whole. 

The book is charming, and the simple illustrative style embodies the innocence of the story. The narration is in first person, which makes it so heartwarming and does a beautiful job in tugging at your heartstrings. 

What's incredible about this book is that even in it's simplicity it manages to pack in an abundance of themes, from imagination, independence, loss, sorrow and acceptance. 

Bertolt was originally published in French as L'arbragan, and it translates so beautifully into English. Goldstyle Jacques the writer was born in 1958 in Saint-Eugene Argentenay, and worked in petroleum geology. As a child, his father taught him how to draw; and he drew all the time. But then, life happened. Studies, university and the pursuit of a career, took him deep into the field of geology. It was only years later after his career working for the gold mines in Abitibi, that he started to draw again. And since then, he hasn't stopped. His contributions have included drawing cartoons for Les D├ębrouillards and Les Explorateurs, science youth magazines in French Canada, and writing and illustrating stories for kids of all ages. 
Bertolt is published by Enchanted Lion Books, and distributed by Publishers Book Canada.