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A wizard and a tree of life

Ġorġ Mallia’s new book for children

Ġorġ Mallia’s latest children’s book is in English and draws visually on the Scandinavian “tomtenissar” (Santa’s elves) that are so popular as decorations over the Christmas season.

But there’s nothing Christmassy about Mallia’s Sigurd and the Tree of Life as it is a tale that involves the last wizard on Earth searching out the tree of life before a poison that’s been fed into its roots kills it, and with it all of life in the world.

The book, aimed at children that are between eight and 12, came into being when Mallia, well known for his cartoons and illustrations, drew a picture of the traditional tomtenisse, lamp in hand, looking out at the reader. The tomtenissar’s faces are usually hidden behind long hats and very long beards, with the nose peeking out. Mallia has stuck with this depiction of his characters, going for a puppet-like rendering of figures, populating the bare forests of the cold north.

In fact, Sigurd lives on the edge of one such forest, and is visited by the spirit of an ancient wizard who tells him of the danger to the tree of life. The rest of the book is Sigurd’s dangerous quest (with evil wizards creating huge obstacles in his way) to save the tree.

There are quite obvious hints to ecology and the way the environment is slowly being corroded by those who are too selfish to think of the future, but this is a subtle, understood message in the story that creates a world full of wonders, dangers and a quest that needs to succeed.

Sigurd and the Tree of Life is published in hardback by Horizons and is illustrated with 19 full colour drawings by the author. It is being launched at the Malta Book Festival.

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