Why Willow Wept focuses on the value of self-esteem and encourages readers to try to understand the intentions of others before becoming upset about perceived slights.
The book opens with a donkey coming to rest near a willow tree. He tells the tree that she reminds him of a toad, and although he intends for the remark to be a compliment, Willow is quickly outraged. She initiates a rare meeting of the tree council to plead her case.
Once the council gathers, Willow recounts the interaction and demands that the donkey be banished. The other trees tell Willow that she has overreacted and misinterpreted this comment, and that she wouldn’t be so upset if she were more confident and less vain. They also fault her for assuming that toads are bad. At first, Willow is very upset by their judgment, but after some reflection she comes to appreciate the beauty of nature in all of its forms.
While presenting a convincing case for believing in one’s own value without diminishing the worth of others, Why Willow Wept also tackles a difficult discussion about the complexities of intention. At one point, an elder tells Willow, “You will learn that no offense can be taken unless meaning is added.” This position seems reductive, as it’s certainly possible to hurt someone without believing they should be offended; that aside, it’s a highly complex concept that young children may have trouble absorbing.
Also, because Willow goes to her elders for comfort and is instead rebuffed and ridiculed, the book discourages young readers from finding mentors and talking out their problems.
The text is dense for a picture book, and the language can be challenging (“countenance,” “condescending,” “tenacity,” “churned,” and so on) for young readers. There are also some punctuation errors throughout.
Why Willow Wept presents a unique and interesting moral. Some refining of the message and word use would make the story more appropriate for its intended audience.
Also available as an ebook.