Keeper of the Trees - Summary

Keeper of the Trees

The Keeper of the Trees (Ronsdale Press, 1999) is a fantasy novel for ages 9 – 12. It’s set in London, England, and revolves around Elizabeth, a Canadian girl from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who’s stuck living with her aunt while her dad is a student at a nearby university. Elizabeth’s friendship with Maud, a mysterious homeless woman who quotes classical poetry, turns into an apprenticeship when Maud becomes ill and must pass on a job important to London’s stressed environment – Keeper of the horse chestnut trees. This role involves supporting faerie creatures that appear from the Otherworld and whose presence is integral to the survival of these trees, and Elizabeth must protect these fragile animals—and Aunt Julia—from the evil Hunter. Lucky she has her friend Fraze to help her…if he indeed is a friend.

Bev Brenna lived in London when she wrote this book, and even though a lot of it is imagined, there’s also a great deal of real material in it. Bev knew a kid like Elizabeth who, each time she changed schools in London, had to learn a new style of handwriting—very time consuming!

The explanatory myth at the heart of the story—how the horse chestnut trees got their name—started when Bev began examining the branches of these trees and noticed tiny horseshoe-shaped prints on the bark—a phenomenon on which she couldn’t find a factual explanation. And she had a neighbour who ate friendship soup, just like Elizabeth’s family does, and found a cat’s tooth on the spoon. Lots of situations like these—that Bev experiences first or second-hand—find their way into her writing. It mirrors what teachers often say: Write what you know. But you have to be careful if your writing about someone is recognizable—ask the person first if they mind!