Book review – Mary Cawley reviews ‘Why Willows Weep’

Contemporary Tales from the Woods, is a collection of short stories compiled by the Woodland Trust.

Book cover - Why Willows WeepI was given this extraordinary little gem by Dr J Nicola Nicholls LVO, Chair of the Woodland Trust. I took it with me on a train journey to Swindon and after the first tale, Why the Ash Has Black Buds by William Fiennes, I was spellbound. I closed the book reluctantly and concentrated on the passing landscape of glorious red and gold trees. When I had arrived at my destination, suddenly conscious of my profound ignorance, I found the nearest bookshop and bought a child’s guide to recognising trees.

Why does the ash tree have black buds? Why does the yew tree live so long? Why does a birch tree have silver bark? And, of course why does the willow weep? This collection of 19 short stories from the woods is an imaginative attempt to answer some of these questions, with tales written by some of our finest authors. Tracy Chevalier, Kate Mosse, Blake Morrison, Philip Hensher and 15 other prominent writers have contributed original tales to help raise awareness of and funds for the Woodland Trust. For every copy sold the Woodland Trust will plant five native trees.

These beautifully illustrated stories are an eclectic mix of traditional fairytales, interpretations of Greek myths and some that are just, well, delightfully off-the-wall. I read the remaining 18 at one sitting, with an increasing sense of delight. Everyone will have their own favourite, but mine is The Cuckoo and the Cherry Tree by Rachel Billington. The narrative between the hermaphrodite wild cherry tree and the cuckoo is totally original and very funny.

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“You are the tree of my dreams,” she cheeped, aroused for the first time to flights of fancy. Sadly, the cherry tree did not reciprocate such feelings. “Get off, can’t you,” it replied rudely. “You’re always hanging round here and it’s getting on my nerves.”

Why Willows Weep – Contemporary Tales from the Woods is published by IndieBooks in association with Hamish Hamilton and is priced at £12.95 (as at November 2012)

For more information about the Woodland Trust and to buy this enchanting book, please visit

About MaryCawley

I run Firesong Consulting, a consultancy specialising in branding and communications, with particular focus on not-for-profit organisations. I have managed communications for Richmond Fellowship, a national specialist provider of mental health services, for the past six years. The re-branding of the organisation in 2010 was highly commended in Third Sector’s Excellence Awards for Brand Development. I read English Language and Literature at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. Sadly, I have not passed on my enduring love of books to my son Joseph, a self confessed happy philistine!