Song of the Trees
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|Author||Mildred D. Taylor|
|Genre||children's literature, historical fiction|
|Followed by||Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry|
Song of the Trees is a 1975 novella by author Mildred Taylor and illustrator Jerry Pinkney. It was the first of her highly acclaimed series of books about the Logan family. The novella follows the time Mr. Anderson tried to cut down the trees on the Logan family's land. The story revolves around Cassie Logan who tries to save the trees on her Big Ma's land. Even though Cassie's family needed some money, something told Cassie the trees were just as valuable.
Eight year old Cassie Logan is woken up one sunny morning by her paternal grandmother, Big Ma. As she gathers herself together, she accidentally knocks into a chair. Prompted by Big Ma, she opens her bedroom window and gazes out into the field and examines the forest of trees that sits behind the house far back into the property. She admires them, but this is quickly short-lived as Big Ma tells her to get moving or else she'll whoop her.
Cassie goes into the kitchen where her mother, Mary, is there preparing breakfast. Her older brother Stacey is also there setting up the fire in the oven and one of her younger brothers Christopher-John is there. Christopher-John is scolded a little by Mary for waking up in the middle of the night eating all of the cornbread. While she doesn't want to let her children go hungry, she tells Christopher-John to ease up on his appetite. At this time, it is learned that her husband and the children's father, David Logan, is down in Louisiana laying down tracks on the railroad to support the family. Cassie's other younger brother and the youngest overall, Little Man, enters and they get into a brief fight over the stain on his pants Little Man believes Cassie is responsible for the day before. The fight is interrupted by Stacey, but Cassie and Little Man decide to settle their differences on the matter later on without Stacey around to see them.
Mary sends Cassie to help Little Man gather eggs and during this time, Big Ma urges Mary to write to David and let him know that they need money to make up for the ten dollars that mysteriously went missing from the letter he sent. Mary declines, not wanting to bug him and lets her know when it came to food supply, there was still enough vegetables in their garden to get. Big Ma asks about medicine and Mary brushes her off as Cassie re-emerges into the kitchen with a basket to gather the eggs with.
After breakfast, Cassie and her brothers go into the forest with their three cows and their offspring, walking them to a pond. It was a muggy morning, but the trees were keeping the heat out as their leaves blew above them. Cassie takes it as them singing and asks Stacey if he can see it too, but Stacey dismisses this and tells her that it's just the wind. Shortly after, Cassie asks Stacey about the well-being of their mother when overhearing her and Big Ma talk about medicine. Stacey assures her that their mother was alright but if she was ill, then it wasn't that serious for them to worry about. The kids leave the cows and their calves at the pond to drink water while they go out and pick blackberries.
Along the way, the kids decide to play a quick game of hide-and-seek. Cassie notices the leaves of the trees stop moving. When Stacey approaches her, she tells him that they "aren't singing anymore". Stacey tells them that they should pick the berries now before it got too late. They come across two white men, Mr. Andersen and his partner Tom, who are talking about cutting down the trees. The kids hide so they aren't noticed. Mr. Andersen hasn't gone to spoke to Big Ma yet about taking the trees but is planning to do that soon. Tom is worried about David's reaction as he doesn't make dealings with white folks. Mr. Andersen assures him that David won't be a problem since he doesn't own the land and sends Tom on his way to get his team of lumbermen to start cutting down the trees for him to claim. The Logan kids hurry back to the house where they find Mr. Andersen there talking to their mother and Big Ma. Mr. Andersen offered up sixty-five dollars and says that's more than what David would make in two months. Mary objects the offer, feeling they can make it with the amount David sends. Mr. Andersen says that anything could happen to David and he could get into an accident. This worries Big Ma who quickly accepts the offer, but the kids quickly come in to protest. Cassie scolds Mr. Andersen, saying that the trees were her friends and wasn't going to let him cut them down. Her mother grabs a hold of her and sends her off to her room.
That night, Cassie wakes up and looks outside the window of her room and sees Mama, Big Ma and Stacey on their mare, Lady. She asks her mother where Stacey was off to and Mary tells her that he was off to retrieve their father. Three days pass. On the fourth day since Stacey's departure, Cassie sees her mother walking alone through the forest. She decides to join her and ask how sick she was, remembering the conversation she had with Big Ma just days earlier. Mary tells her she was very much sick, but was going to feel better when David returned home. They enter into an area and see that many of the trees have already been cut down. The ones still standing had been marked with white X's to soon signal their cut-down. Mother and daughter held tight to each other and cried at the sight of this.
After they returned to the house, Little Man decided he wanted to go look at the destruction for himself. Ignoring his mother's orders not to go into the forest, he does so anyway with Cassie and Christopher-John following him. They come across Mr. Andersen and his team of lumbermen who spot them. Mr. Andersen orders the children to return home, but when they refuse, Mr. Andersen has a black man named Claude handle them. Claude grabs a hold of Little Man who fights his way from him and was eventually shoved down. Cassie charges towards Mr. Andersen, but is stopped by Claude who carries her off with Christopher-John trailing behind trying to get Claude to let him go. He leaves them off at the pond for them to make the rest of the trip home.
Not knowing where Little Man was, they go back to where Mr. Andersen and the lumbermen were and find him fighting with them. They fail to get him to stop and he hits Mr. Andersen in the leg with a huge stick. He quickly runs off, but is soon grabbed by the lumbermen. Cassie and Christopher-John order them to let him go and are also captured themselves. Christopher-John breaks free and charges at Mr. Andersen, kicking him in twice the shin. He is grabbed again by the lumbermen. The now angry Mr. Andersen takes off his belt and was about to whoop the children, but is stopped when Stacey appears with Lady and their father who is holding a black box. David orders his children to be released. Mr. Andersen, happy to see David, follows through with the request and assumes he's going to handle them. Stacey takes his siblings and lures them far away from the site.
When they're far enough, Stacey tells them that he and their father set up sticks of dynamite around the forest and the black box David is holding had a button that will trigger the dynamite and blow up everyone in sight including himself if Mr. Andersen doesn't stop cutting down the trees. Mr. Andersen tries to talk David into going with the plan he and Big Ma set up. David refuses and the lumbermen sees he isn't playing around. Mr. Andersen's partner Tom suggest they leave. Mr. Andersen agrees and wants to take the logs they already cut down with them, but David prohibits this. The white men and the lumbermen leave the land empty handed. David stays in place until the men are all out of sight.
Afterwards, Cassie looks up at the trees to see if they would "sing" some more and does not receive an answer. They stay silent and their leaves don't move.
The Logan Family
The Logan family consists of David (Papa), Mary (Mama), Caroline (Big Ma, David's mother and the children's grandmother). Their children consists of Stacey, Cassie, Christopher-John, and Clayton Chester, A.K.A. Little Man, and sometimes they mention Paul-Edward (Big Ma's husband and David's father).
Mr. Anderson, Tom (Mr. Andersen's partner), and the lumbermen. They make a deal with the Logan family to cut down their trees at first, but are later stopped by David (Papa of the Logan family).
- "Mildred D. Taylor", The Mississippi Writers Page, University of Mississippi.