Mid-level fiction that sees the forest for the trees

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“They are beautiful!” Mangoshi says of a grove of centuries-old ash trees.

“It’s because they are loved,” replies the baobab.

Back in the present, a team of men equipped with chainsaws and machines came to chop down the baobab tree. “You’ll have to take me down first before you touch this tree,” announces a newly armed Mangoshi. The team manager explains that the trees will be turned into houses, furniture, and books, but Mangoshi remains unmoved. So he concedes that they won’t cut down the baobab. “Nor any of the others,” insists Mangoshi. “How would you like someone from heaven to come and say he would save you but kill everyone else?” His act of courage attracts the attention of the world and the forest is spared. Overjoyed, the baobab reveals to Mangoshi the sought-after flower, which has started to grow again at the roots of the tree. Mother and forest endure.

Kids might balk at the sharpness of the ending, but adults who yearn for the simplicity they remember from childhood will take it like a balm.

Credit…Teny Aida Issakhanian

The trio’s most complex book is also, surprisingly, the most overtly commercial. “Wingbearer,” written by Marjorie Liu (of “Monstress” fame and illustrated by Teny Aida Issakhanian, is a wonderfully constructed graphic novel about connection, privilege, and memory.

Young Zuli is the sole human occupant of the Great Tree, a holding place between worlds for the souls of birds. Throughout her life, she helped nurture these recently deceased souls so they could be reborn. His world changes, however, when souls stop arriving at the tree. Although her family of bird spirits longs for her to stay with them, Zuli delves into the outside world to find both missing souls and the story of her past.

Along the way, she picks up a crowd of companions. A talking owl, a displaced goblin, an enslaved warrior, and a dragon willfully separated from his own, all alternately helping and hindering, each offering a different look at the costs and benefits of identity and community.

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