The Girl Who Became A Tree

Publisher: Otter-Barry Books

A story of a girl

With a hurt she can’t express

A tale of a creature?

A tail of deepest red.

So begins poet and playwright Joseph Coelho’s stunning poetic adaptation of the Greek myth of Daphne, who transformed herself into a tree to escape the god Apollo. The ancient legend is seamlessly woven into the modern-day tale of 14 year old Daphne, a girl who becomes lost in the tangled woods of her grief and anger after seeking solace in her local library following the death of her father.

Coelho’s poetry is at once accessible and powerful, an imaginative and exciting narrative which is a thrill to read aloud, yet at the same time emotionally mature and, in places, heartbreakingly sad. Coelho effortlessly uses gentle, everyday language to convey challenging themes. Verses are dedicated to loss and grief – a painful memory “comes bulldozing in” - whilst others examine the sanctuary of books to a troubled young mind, or an argument between Daphne and her mother (“I’m so angry all the time/And she is all I have”). At the same time, this is a love story to libraries and the escape they offer – library advocate Coelho dedicates the book to “Westhill Library (now closed) – where I studied with friends, found new horizons, new adventures and comfort.”

Kate Milner (My Name Is Not Refugee, It’s A No Money Day)’s dreamlike illustrations run throughout, giving evocative characterisation to the sudden din of taking your earphones out, or to the monstrous creature Hoc, who tries to trick Daphne into staying lost in the forest.

There is so much for adults and children alike to enjoy in this story told in poems, which tugs at the heartstrings and inspires in equal measure.

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