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Tayo Oshaye
Blessed and Beautiful: Psalm 1 (with Psalm 121)
Tayo Oshaye, author

Middle Grade; Spirituality/Inspirational; (Publish)

The young pine tree Pinely struggles with self-esteem as she strives to become the most beautiful tree in the enchanted forest of Edenwild. As Nature’s talent show approaches, Pinely embarks on a transformative journey with the support of her friends. The story imparts the heartwarming lesson that everyone is valuable.

Oshaye’s third in her Mini Psalm Book series (after I Am Confident in God and Fearless) pairs Bible psalms with a group of animated trees in this endearing story. The tale starts with “God, the Creator” planting five trees—Firi Firtree, Pinely Pine, Larry Cedar, Oaklan Oak, and Juniper Broomley—in a charming forest that’s supported by a meandering river, aptly named Deep Spring. Out of all the trees in Edenwild Forest, Larry Cedar is the most majestic, known for his strong roots and herculean height, but his gifts come with a serious side of arrogance, too, as he often proclaims, “No tree in the forest comes close to what I offer!”

That arrogance predictably drives a wedge between Larry and the other trees, particularly Pinely Pine, who wants nothing more than to win the supermodel medal at the forest’s upcoming talent show. In between her and that dream stands Larry, of course, with a streak of undefeated wins and a colossal ego, all prompting Pinely to eventually lose heart—and threaten to leave Edenwild forever. Luckily, the trees band together and remind Pinely—and Larry—of God’s unconditional love, cultivating their forgiveness of each other and acceptance of their own special talents.

The story’s ending is both prickly and sweet, as a hurricane rolls in and alters the forest’s landscape forever, but the art of Yana Popova, especially the realistic facial expressions on Edenwild’s evergreen residents, gives the tale a soft, entertaining edge. Biblical concepts spring up throughout, as the trees discuss scripture, pray together, and proclaim they are “planted here to display God’s glory.” For younger readers, Oshaye details fun nature facts, like the almost-200 year life span of juniper trees, and closes with a recipe for toasted nut pancakes and a challenge for readers to create their own “friendship chorus” to share online.

Takeaway: Trees band together to discover God’s love in this charming faith-based tale.

Comparable Titles: J. Alasdair Groves’s Tomas Looks Up & Out, Darby A. Strickland’s Something Scary Happened.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: B+
Editing: B
Marketing copy: B+